Murkowski Secures Investments to Strengthen Alaska’s Communities

Appropriations Bill Supports Education, Health, Labor Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Department of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2017. Referred to as Labor-H, it contains a number of provisions secured by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that will strengthen Alaska’s communities. As a member of the committee, Murkowski focused her efforts on funding programs that support Alaskan families, jobs, economic development, health, and safety.

The Labor-H appropriations bill now heads to the Senate floor for final consideration.

“I am committed to providing Alaskans with the tools they need to live healthy and productive lives. From educational opportunities, to job training, to health programs, I’m pleased this bill will go a long way in serving Alaskans,” said Senator Murkowski. “It will provide Alaskans greater opportunities to gain the knowledge and skills they need to have a chance at a bright future, and directs important investments in improving our health.”

Improving Health and Safety

Community Health Centers: Commits significant funds to support Community Health Centers – including 170 such clinics that serve almost 100,000 Alaskans across the state from Naknek, to Point Hope, to Yakutat. In many areas of Bush Alaska, these CHCs are the only healthcare providers for hundreds of miles. Language in this bill also directs increased funding to facilitate expansion into providing behavioral health and substance abuse treatment – addressing two critical issues prevalent in rural Alaska.

State Public Health Actions on Chronic Diseases: Directs resources to boost programs aimed at preventing chronic diseases – including obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, and strokes.

Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant: Increases funds for the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant, to improve the health of mothers and children, including children and youth with special health care needs.

HHS Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: Provides support to state programs aiming to ensure that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are able to fully participate in and contribute to all aspects of community life.

Preventative Health and Health Services Block Grant: Funds the Preventative Health and Health Services Block Grant, which is used in Alaska to address basic health concerns related to chronic disease, rape prevention, and unintentional injuries.

NIH: Provides robust funding for the National Institute of Health – which conducts state of the art biomedical research.

Alzheimer’s: Directs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to launch a pilot program to evaluate the impact of caregiver support models within Medicare and Medicaid programs. The committee acknowledges the significant importance of counseling and supportive services delivered to family caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients.

Supporting Alaskan Families

Head Start: Increases funding for the Head Start program, which provides educational and health services to over 3,000 young Alaskans in 100 communities.

  • Directs the HHS to consider the unique challenges faced by Head Start providers in remote and frontier areas.
  • Encourages flexibility for program funds to be spent on local priorities such as expanding the number of children served, providing competitive wages for Head Start employees, and addressing facility renovation and maintenance requirements to better suit local needs.
  • Urges HHS to complete its evaluation of the Designation Renewal System to ensure its meets the goals of transparency, validity, reliability, and program improvement.

Child Care and Development Block Grant: Increases funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant to assist child care providers to better meet the needs of low-income working families who seek high-quality, affordable child care. 

Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): Allocates robust funds for the LIHEAP program – which acts as a crucial supplement for many Alaskans who face the highest energy prices in the nation. Over 11,000 Alaskan households received LIHEAP assistance in 2014. 

Special Olympics: Supports the work of Special Olympics, the world's largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Over 1,500 athletes are empowered by Special Olympics Alaska, training and competing in 16 different Olympic-type sports.

Boosting Educational and Career Opportunities

Impact Aid: Increases funds for Impact Aid – which reimburses school districts for the cost of educating students who live on properties that are tax-exempt due to federal law. This includes students who live on, or parents who work on, military installations, federally-designated low-income housing, and Native lands.

Title VI Indian Education Formula Grants: Allocates funds to address the unique education and culturally related academic needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students.

21st Century Community Learning Centers: Directs resources to support afterschool programs to give working parents peace of mind and keep kids safe and engaged in learning after school.

Alaska Native Education Equity Program (ANEP): Supports (ANEP), a program designed to meet the unique education needs of Alaska Native students.

Strengthening Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions: Promotes and strengthens the ability of Alaska Native-Serving Institutions and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions to carry out education, applied research, and related community development programs. This is an important program for several of Alaska’s rural UA campuses.

Strengthening Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities: Strengthens support for educational institutions operated by American Indian tribes – including I?isa?vik College in Barrow, Alaska.

IES Report Language: Senator Murkowski secured language in the bill directing the Department of Education to adhere to the strictest and highest standards for protecting personally identifiable information (PII) and requires the Department to report to Congress on their actions taken to comply with this directive.

Indian Education National Activities: Ensures funds will be available to support Native American and Alaska Native Language Immersion Schools and Programs, a new program crafted by Senator Murkowski in the Every Student Succeeds Act. It has been determined that schools where indigenous language is the primary language of instruction have a strong, positive effect on Alaska Native students.

Corporation for Public Broadcasting: Allocates funding for public radio, television, and related online and mobile services. This is especially critical due to diminishing state funds for public broadcasting – the main news source for many communities throughout Alaska.

Job Corps: Funds Job Corps to provide free career and technical training to young Alaskans. This will provide support for the Alaska Job Corps Center in Palmer, Alaska.

Related Issues: Education, Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska, Health