Compassionate aid during crisis
Wednesday, February 4, 2009, Juneau, Alaska – Representative Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, has introduced (HB) House Bill 114, legislation to amend current emergency relief statutes to include compassionate relief.
Under current state law, the Governor may use state-owned or operated transportation modes or facilities to respond to disasters or emergencies in the State. Ramras’s bill would add compassionate aid for situations like the one occurring in Emmonak.
“We have Alaskans in a rural area in need of our assistance and have been able to amass needed food but have no way to deliver it to communities,” Ramras said. “I am saddened that Governor Palin has created a vacuum of leadership by not making state transportation assets available. Many of the cash donations raised will be needed for transportation instead of being used to purchase necessities for these communities. That is a shame.”
“4,465 lbs of food from the Fairbanks Community Foodbank had to be transported to Anchorage by Lynden Transport. From there, Alaska Airlines flew the food to Bethel, and then, after much pleading, the State of Alaska provided a small plane for transport from Bethel to Kotlik,” Ramras said. “Many communities in Western Alaska are hungry and cold this winter and nonprofits and faith-based entities can help cure this situation without state funds. It is the least the state can do to allow use of state-owned transportation assets that are sitting idle while capable, good Alaskans are going hungry.”
So far, efforts have raised well over $15,000 in cash assets, including funds raised at the upcoming Legislative Fundraiser. Working with Wal-Mart, Safeway, The Fairbanks Community Foodbank, The Food Bank of Alaska located in Anchorage, and dozens of churches in both communities, it is anticipated that this effort will move 20,000 lbs of food to Western Alaska.
The Commissioner of Commerce, Community and Economic Development sent a contingent of administration officials to Western Alaska, but was unable to justify an economic disaster designation. Their office has been helpful in identifying distressed communities and contact information for leaders and government bodies in those communities.
HB 114 has been referred to the Transportation Committee.
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To contact Rep. Ramras, please call 1-900-465-3004