Sullivan: 'Bureaucratic issues' nearly cost Alaska federal quake funds
The state received a federal boost this week in relief funds following Southcentral Alaska's 7.0 earthquake — but one of the state's senators says it almost didn't happen.
President Trump's declaration of a major federal disaster arrived Thursday, unlocking federal assistance for state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the Nov. 30 quake.
According to Sen. Dan Sullivan, however, the state's congressional delegation saw trouble brewing over Alaska's request at both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the federal Office of Management and Budget.
"The president wasn't aware but we were aware of a clash," Sullivan said. "There was miscommunication."
FEMA and OMB, Sullivan said, had reported issues with the state's application.
"They thought the state didn't have in the full application," Sullivan said. "That was wrong. The state had it in correctly. I know it's not on national news, but I know people in Alaska are hurting."
On Jan. 4, the delegation took action. Sullivan, along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, wrote President Trump asking that he approve Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s request for a presidential major disaster declaration.
"It had been caught up in some bureaucratic issues," Sullivan said. "It happens, sometimes, in regard to the federal government."
Sullivan also called the president and asked him to take a look at the process.
"He told me he would," Sullivan said. "Within an hour or two of the phone call there was a lot of action, so obviously he was rattling a lot of cages."
Trump's declaration means more help for Alaska's government, families and businesses from FEMA, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Small Business Administration.
“We are eternally thankful for President Trump and his entire team, including FEMA, for working quickly to evaluate our request and respond to our needs," Dunleavy said in a statement. "The Nov. 30 earthquake hit Alaska hard and recovery efforts and repairs will take time, but we are looking forward to working with our federal partners and doing what it takes to get Alaska back up and running.”
"Alaska is not like other states and recovering from an earthquake is not like other disasters,” wrote Brig. Gen. Torrence Saxe, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs. “Our role is to ensure the recovery effort utilizes all funding streams, incorporates local, state, and non-government organizations, and responds to the needs of Alaskans.”
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