$900B omnibus appropriations package benefits state

There’s something for everyone in the $900 billion, 12-bill federal appropriations package that became law on Dec. 27, from fisheries and transportation to public safety and a number of Native and rural programs nationwide, including Alaska.

The appropriations package invests in every sector of America, and will create economic opportunities for Alaskans, strengthen national defense and military infrastructure, support Alaska’s fisheries and invest in transportation, said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

In Prince William Sound specifically, the package provides funds for a site-specific landslide hazard assessment and long-term monitoring strategy, along with enhanced earthquake monitoring capabilities and upgrading volcano monitoring equipment.

Highlights of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Bill include micro-grants for the Food security Program created by Murkowski in the 2018 Farm Bill, to help support Alaskans’ ability to grow their own food.

Murkowski secured language in the bill requiring urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reestablish the Wild Caught Working Group under the National Organic Standards Board to consider developing organic certification standards for wild seafood.

Other provisions in that bill providing millions of dollars for rural electric and telephone infrastructure, distance learning, telemedicine and broadband grants, plus rural water and wastewater disposal programs.

“The legislation includes funds for a number of Alaska Native and rural programs, including the crisis of missing, trafficked and murdered indigenous woman, as well as provisions to protect Alaska’s land and people,” she said.

Also included are funding initiatives to increase America’s presence in the Arctic, full funding for the payment in lieu of taxes program for local governments whose area includes federal lands not subject to state or local taxes, public schools, and search and rescue operations.

The Alaska Native Education Equity Program got an increase of $500,000 for a total of $36.5 million for a program designed to meet unique educational needs of Alaska Native students, plus an estimated $2.5 million in support of Native American and Alaska Native Language Immersion Schools and Programs grants, which were added by Murkowski within the Every Student Succeeds Act. The senator noted that it has been determined that schools where indigenous language is the primary language of instruction have a strong, positive effect on Alaska Native students.

Transportation, housing and urban development items in the omnibus package included more money for essential air service, tribal housing block grants and $38 million for a competitive grant program that could help fund maintenance and improvements of Alaska’s ferry system through construction of ferry boats, acquiring right-of-way and ferry terminal facilities.