Legislative leaders are calling lawmakers back to Juneau on Monday, May 18, to solve a potential legal issue that could cloud distribution of several hundred million dollars of federal COVID-19 financial aid to Alaska communities and businesses.
Last Monday the Legislature's Budget and Audit Committee approved the financial package through an administrative procedure allowing adjustments to budgets while the Legislature is not in session.
Juneau attorney Joe Geldhof filed a lawsuit, arguing the action was illegal because the state Constitution requires the full Legislature to pass an appropriation bill to accept and distribute federal funds.
“It appears imminent the Legislature will have to reconvene to approve the COVID-19 money," House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said in a statement. "The details are still being worked on, and more will be known," by late Friday.
The funding includes substantial sums for local communities and grants for small businesses adversely affected by shutowns caused by the fight against the COVID-19 disease.
Lawmakers’ sole focus will be passing legislation that eliminates any uncertainty around the State of Alaska’s use of $1.5 billion in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds, House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said..
“We are doing our very best to approve badly needed federal funds to help Alaskans weather the economic storm caused by COVID-19,” Edgmon said.
“We are working side-by-side in the Legislature and with the governor to get this done before the regular session ends at midnight next Wednesday,” he said.
The state Constitution requires the Legislature to adjourn on the 120th day of its annual session, which will be May 20.