The Denali Borough Assembly will consider an ordinance Wednesday to extend its declaration of a COVID-19 disaster emergency. The measure would allow the borough to continue its COVID testing program and other responses to the pandemic – at least, through the end of the year.
Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker says he introduced the ordinance mainly to ensure the local government can continue to use federal funding to pay for its COVID-testing program and other responses to the pandemic.
“We’re running a testing program here that is very important to the community,” Walker said. “It provides added capacity for COVID testing that the clinics here just don’t have the personnel and the time to do as much testing as needed to happen.”
Walker says the ordinance includes a provision that would authorize the borough to continue requesting state and federal funding for 30 days after the state emergency declaration expires. That would’ve happened on Nov. 16, and halted the main source of COVID-response funding the borough was getting. But on Friday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy extended the state declaration for another 30 days, to Dec.16.
“And, honestly, we’re thankful that the governor extended it,” Walker said in an interview Monday.
Thankful, because the borough’s testing and tracking programs has greatly helped lower the number of local COVID cases that until a couple weeks ago were steadily growing. And because the borough couldn’t have afforded to continue the program, mainly because the pandemic nearly wiped-out last summer’s tourism season – which generates most of the borough’s income.
“Especially with our revenue being crushed,” he said. “No. We’re doing it because we have federal funding to do it, and because we know it’s the right thing.”
Walker says he’s now focused on what to do after Dec. 30, when the federal authority to spend CARES Act money expires. He hopes Congress extends the legislation, so state and local governments can continue to offer programs to crush COVID.