Mayor Berkowitz declares civil emergency, says public health and safety risks are 'imminent'
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz says state budget cuts have made the city vulnerable to dire and imminent public health and safety risks and declared a state of civil emergency. He made the official declaration at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
“This is an unprecedented decision for an unprecedented situation,” Berkowitz said. “Existing shelters have lost funding at a time when demand for their services is projected to skyrocket. First responders and health care professionals are anticipating a massive surge in 911 and emergency room calls, and it is imperative that we meet this impending humanitarian crisis with the resources that we deploy when responding to all emergencies.”
In a news release sent Wednesday, the mayor’s office lists the budget cuts most affecting the city and what the results could be:
- Nearly $6 million in cuts to Anchorage-specific homeless services mean a projected 800 more people could become unsheltered homeless.
- The closing of the Brother Francis Shelter means 240 homeless will be without a roof starting Aug. 1 and without many of the shelter’s services when it reopens Aug. 5.
- Cuts to Medicaid, senior benefits, legal services, food banks, domestic violence case management and support, and behavioral health lead to health and public safety emergencies involving our most vulnerable.
- A 41% cut to the state’s contribution to the University of Alaska means hundreds could lose their jobs and the city could go into a recession.
“Now, more than ever, we must come together as a community — as we did during the Nov. 30, 2018 earthquake — to help our neighbors, each other, and our city,” said Anchorage Assembly Chair Felix Rivera.
The civil emergency stays in effect until Friday at 3 p.m. The mayor's declaration allows him to reallocate the city's resources, including money and personnel.
The Assembly will meet on Friday and vote on whether to extend the declaration and decide what to do next. Some paths being considered are allocating funding to service providers, finding other facilities — like churches — that can temporarily house people or doing nothing.
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