Biden approves Western Alaska disaster claim as FEMA arrives to assess storm damage

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President Joseph Biden on Friday approved the state of Alaska’s request for a major disaster declaration following recent storms that hit western Alaska.

This decision unlocks additional aid to help communities with their ongoing recovery efforts.

“Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects. of the disaster,” the statement read.

Elected leaders thanked federal agencies during a briefing at the governor’s office in Anchorage Friday night as they provided an update on recovery from the storm.

“Everyone is coming together for this,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy said, hailing the cooperation between an array of state and tribal entities alongside Alaska Native societies, nonprofits and volunteers. “We’re pretty confident we’ll have done a lot of that recovery before the freeze,” Dunleavy said.

[Hooper Bay families displaced by flooding search for a permanent solution]

According to the state’s latest assessments, 103 homes were damaged by the storm, with several dozen people still staying in community buildings. Alaska National Guard personnel and other organizations helped remove about 20 tons of debris, most of which was in the community of Golovin, according to Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, who leads the Guard. and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. .

According to the Department of Transportation and Utilities, the state has secured federal highway relief funds and is making $15 million in supplies available for contractors to begin road repair work.

Newly installed US Mary Peltola was present at the briefing, having arrived directly from a flight home from Washington, D.C.

“Families have lost several boats, several four-wheeled vehicles,” Peltola said. “It’s not recreation.”

She will travel to Nome over the weekend with members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and plans to help highlight the unique needs of Alaskans for subsistence equipment and vehicles.

“I’m also very concerned about the subsistence camps,” Peltola said. “These are things I will watch out for.”

[Here are some ways to help communities ravaged by storms in Western Alaska]

Peltola said the Department of the Interior is allocating $2.6 million through the Bureau of Indian Affairs to 45 communities to purchase food, water and other essential supplies.

Senator Lisa Murkowski was already in the Bering Strait region on Friday and plans to visit affected areas over the weekend.

“So many communities in Western Alaska have been devastated and are in dire need of federal support. I thank the President for listening to us and recognizing the urgency of this situation. With winter approaching, this federal assistance cannot come soon enough,” Murkowski said in a statement.

[‘Some of them just disappeared’: Essential pieces of life in Nome were lost in the storm]

Sen. Dan Sullivan was not at the briefing or in state, due to military training, according to Dunleavy.

“It’s been an extremely coordinated response effort,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, who flew to Alaska from Puerto Rico, which is also grappling with the aftermath of a destructive storm. . “The state was undoubtedly ready to respond to this storm.”

Criswell and other FEMA personnel are preparing to tour western Alaska over the weekend. State, tribal, local governments and some nonprofit organizations are eligible or receive federal funds on a cost-sharing basis, although the state has asked that its share be reversed given the severity of the storm. and the tight schedule before the winter freeze.

Merbok press conference

“It will be an ongoing recovery,” said Dunleavy, who has spent the past few days visiting affected areas. “Keep your receipts, keep your bills.

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