Pink salmon disaster relief grant delayed to July 1

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I wanted to keep everyone in the loop regarding the follow-up to my pink salmon disaster relief update in last Friday’s paper.

As I write this, it is Wednesday morning, June 5. It was anticipated that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) might release grant funding to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) for distribution by this past Saturday. I reached out to Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office on Monday to see if, in fact, that had occurred.

The Senator’s office had contacted NOAA at the start-of-business on Monday and, disappointingly, the federal agency again failed to act by the June 1  deadline. NOAA is now aiming to release the grant funding by the next cycle on July 1. This is two consecutive months that grant funding has been greenlighted by the Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) but has not been approved by NOAA. Our congressional delegation reached out to NOAA for more information as initial explanations for the missed deadline were unclear. Three years into this process, what is clear is that the only consistency with federal timelines is delay.

To back up a moment, recently, there has been a back-and-forth between NOAA and the state of Alaska regarding revisions to the municipal payment portion of the disaster relief that the feds are requesting. NOAA kicked the plan back to the state for revisions to that component. The state subsequently asked NOAA to move forward with the direct payments to fishermen, processors, and research so that revisions to municipal components could be addressed separately without further delaying disbursement of the other funds. 

It appears the reason for non-approval is that necessary exchanges between the state and NOAA did not happen quickly enough for a June 1 release date for the OMB approved components.

The state has submitted a revised, separate spend plan that covers the OMB-approved portions. NOAA is now on track for issuing the grant to PSMFC with a July 1 start date. Please keep in mind that even if that disbursement date is adhered to, it will still be about a month at best before PSMFC will start mailing checks out the door.

I know this is not the news that anyone wanted, but please keep faith and know that my office is on this issue and will keep you informed as best we can.

If you have any questions or would like to be added to our disaster relief update email list, please call my office at 907-465-3271 or email me at rep.louise.stutes@akleg.gov

Please stand by for an online special session progress update later this week. Negotiations are still underway between the House, Senate and governor on the size of the PFD and other issues. I do not have a solid sense today about where things will land, but I expect to be able to provide a more comprehensive update towards the end of the week.

Remember, I work for you. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions, thoughts, or concerns.

Sincerely,

— Rep. Louise Stutes