Congress funding bill to help Alaska's military, energy needs
A new package of appropriations bills awaiting President Trump's signature has hundreds of millions designated for Alaska -- it will offer more assistance for Alaska veterans living in rural communities.
The package features three areas: Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water and Legislative Branch Appropriations.
Alaska's share draws from more than $130 billion nationally.
Alaska's senior U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and took part in crafting the bill.
In a statement, she said:
"This funding package invests in developing clean, diverse, and reliable energy, and making home-heating and energy costs more affordable for Alaskans. It also prioritizes Alaska's strategic military presence and invests in the health and well-being of Alaska's veterans ---much needed support for our nation's heroes."
U.S. Rep. Don Young said:
"This bill also prioritizes our veterans by providing the highest dollar amount for the VA so those who have served this country can receive the care they deserve and this investment is crucial for rural Alaskan veterans. With this legislation, Congress is also making a significant investment in our water infrastructure and energy infrastructure security."
The two offices provided some funding details for each funding segment.
Military Construction and Veterans Affairs: Military Construction and Veterans Affairs:
- Provides $286.8 million for military construction projects in Alaska, including: $63.8 million at Eielson Air Force Base for F-35 bed down project; $174 million at Clear Air Force Station for Long Range Discrimination Rada; $8 million at Fort Greely for improving a missile field; $41 million for two Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson projects: a replacement operations facility and U.S. property and fiscal office
- Permits the VA to buy healthcare for veterans from the Alaska Native Healthcare System and Federally Qualified Health Centers, separate and apart from the existing Choice Program.
- Provides $348 million for opioid treatment and prevention programs for veterans. It also requires the VA to monitor prescription drug usage and report to Congress in participation in State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs.
- Provides $1.1 billion for the Veterans Electronic Health Record system investments to improve the efficiency and accuracy of veterans' healthcare.
Energy and Water:
- Methane Hydrates: Provides $20 million to further research the production of natural gas from methane hydrates, and encourages a long-term methane hydrate production test in the Arctic. (Alaska's Arctic contains an estimated 32,600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas locked in ice crystals – enough to meet domestic demand for more than for 1,000 years.)
- Weatherization Assistance Program: Increases funding to $254 million, a $6 million increase, to improve the energy efficiency of low-income families' homes.
- State Energy Program: Provides $55 million to invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and emergency preparedness.
- Small, Remote, Subsistence Harbors: Provides $54 million for Small, Remote, Subsistence Harbors maintenance and includes report language that the Army Corps of Engineers shall consider the selection of a small, remote, or subsistence navigation study for new starts.
- Denali Commission: Provides $15 million for the Commission tasked with coordination of construction and infrastructure efforts in rural Alaska.
- Paid Internships: Equalizes the playing field for young adults to temporarily relocate to Washington D.C. by including $5 million for U.S. Senate offices to pay office interns.
- U.S. Capitol Police: Includes funding for the U.S. Capitol Police to support enhanced security efforts.
- U.S. Senate: Provides increased funding to invest in Senate cybersecurity capabilities and training for staff.
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