Biden authorizes full funding of federal help for Western Alaska storm

Impact of the storm on Western Alaska.
Impact of the storm on Western Alaska.(Courtesy - Rosa Wright)
Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 10:12 AM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 29, 2022 at 12:55 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - President Joe Biden’s administration announced Thursday that full federal funding would be made available to help Alaskans recover from the powerful storm that devastated Western Alaska in mid-September.

According to a White House press release, the president’s major disaster declaration issued last Friday paid for 75% of the total eligible costs associated with the storm, with funding made available for “Public Assistance, Hazard Mitigation, and Other Needs Assistance.”

Thursday’s announcement increased the level of federal funds to 100% of the “total eligible costs for the first 30 days of the incident period.”

Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a disaster declaration on Sept. 20, then announced Sept. 23 that state assistance would be available after touring several communities hit hardest by the storm.

The historic weather event formed from the remnants of Typhoon Merbok and ravaged the west coast of the state from Sept. 15 to Sept. 18, racing through the Aleutian Islands and the Bering Sea before impacting the coast.

Alaska’s congressional delegation, which had requested the president to provide funding for storm recovery, all weighed in on a joint statement.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski:

“I thank the President for listening to us and approving our request for a 100% waiver of the State’s cost share for federal assistance associated with recovery efforts from the Western Alaska disaster. Today’s announcement is the result of the Alaska Delegation’s dogged efforts to make the case to the administration, as well as our colleagues — working to educate them on the needs of Western Alaska — and it paid off. The storm damage from Typhoon Merbok is severe and the recovery needs are extensive. I saw destruction in every impacted community I visited — damage to infrastructure like roads in Elim, homes floated off of their foundations in Golovin, extensive flood damage, subsistence camps literally wiped out, taking boats, nets, and four-wheelers. This waiver will go a long way in the regions’ road to recovery, and with freeze-up just weeks away, approval of this waiver couldn’t have come soon enough.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan:

“I’m glad to see that the federal government has honored our request to waive the state’s cost share for the relief to Western Alaskans just as was done recently for Puerto Rico. I’ve been working this issue non-stop, speaking directly several times in the past few days with the Secretary of Homeland Security and senior White House officials, and I had an amendment to the Continuing Resolution (CR) ready to go in the event those discussions with the Biden administration were not successful. The delegation also wrote a letter to the FEMA Administrator and I spoke on the Senate floor about this. I want to thank the federal officials who listened and ensured a prompt cost share waiver. Thank you also to all of the Alaskans who have come together and remained resilient and tough throughout this disaster. Help is on the way. Now is the time to start applying for aid that can assist with everything from emergency shelter to food and other needs. The delegation will continue to stay focused on the important rebuilding process.”

Rep. Mary Peltola:

“I want to thank President Biden for listening to the Alaska delegation’s concerns and approving a 100% federal cost share for our state. This additional federal funding will lift a huge burden off Alaskans who are working so hard to rebuild after the devastation brought by Typhoon Merbok. These next few weeks are critical for making necessary repairs before the winter months and I’m grateful that President Biden has answered our call for help.”

Gov. Mike Dunleavy:

“We know the next few weeks will be critical for the communities impacted by the storm. From the beginning, we’ve done everything to support recovery in Western Alaska, including asking for additional support from the federal government. Rural Alaska is tough, but this storm damaged critical infrastructure and personal property — a cost too great to handle alone, which is why we asked for additional federal help. Thank you to the Biden Administration for waiving 100 percent of the State’s cost share for additional disaster assistance. Alaska’s Congressional Delegation and I know the waiver will go a long way in helping repair the damage to these communities. Let’s get our Alaskan families back on their feet.”