KYUK: Coronavirus Update: US Sen. Lisa Murkowski

Congress is working on an additional funding package to help deal with the pandemic’s effects on the country. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski says that the Senate has approved an additional $484 billion for COVID-19 response, including money for hospitals, small businesses, and testing. The bill is being fast tracked.

“The House is scheduled to take that bill up tomorrow morning [April 23]. So I would anticipate the president would sign that into law perhaps as early as tomorrow, maybe on [April 24],” she told KYUK.

Murkowski was quick to defend the decision by Congress to include Alaska Native corporations, or ANCs, in its funding package for tribal organizations. She said that the issue is not tribal sovereignty, but using limited federal resources to respond to the pandemic.

“This is not about governance, it’s about response to a pandemic. Recognizing that in Alaska we’ve got a mix of tribal governments and ANCs, and so everybody working together to address it. This is what we’re trying to help facilitate,” Murkowski said.

Three Alaska Native tribes have joined a court challenge to stop funding from going to Alaska Native corporations.

When it comes to how to open up the economy, Murkowski opposes President Trump’s assertion that he has the authority to restart business. The senator unequivocally stands with the governors’ rights to design their own approaches to loosen restraints and revive economic activities. They know what is happening on the ground, she said, adding that this is particularly true in Alaska.

“I truly believe that this is governors working with their public health officials to really understand the conditions within their states, particularly a state as large as Alaska, and one that is isolated from the rest of the country,” Murkowski said.

Murkowski said that it is important not to act hastily and create conditions that would create another surge of infections.

Aside from dealing with the pandemic, Congress is also looking at revamping the way the U.S. Postal Service operates. Murkowski said that the big issue before Congress is a congressionally-imposed pension requirement.

“It has been an extraordinary drag on the Postal Service’s ability to operate properly,” Murkowski said. “So we want to ensure the solvency and the reliability of our U.S. Postal Service.”

The senator assured rural Alaska that in no way was she going to stand by and let the Postal Service disappear, because rural Alaska depends on it to deliver basic services. Everything from medicine, to groceries, and in those places without internet, information about what is happening in the rest of the world still comes in the mail.

By:  Anna Rose MacArthur and Johanna Eurich
Source: KYUK