Senate Considers Disaster Bill That Includes Alaska Aid

The Senate is green lighting a disaster relief bill to the floor. It could come up for a vote as early as Monday. It has two key provisions for Alaska – federal aid for the fishery disaster and money for marine debris research and clean up.

As APRN’s Peter Granitz reports, the bill has ballooned in size, and it’s unclear whether it will pass as is.

The disaster relief bill was designed for Northeast states devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Governor Andrew Cuomo requested thirty billion dollars for New York alone. The package has swollen to sixty billion dollars, and it’s no longer just for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

There is nearly $60 million dollars for mapping and charting marine debris.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski questions whether programs like this need to be in a spending package intended to be doled out quickly.

“Is this something that can be spent right now? Or is there some increment that we can advance now in terms of the emergency relief versus something that might come later?”

Senator Murkowski wouldn’t commit to supporting the measure right now. She says some programs will have to wait until next year’s budget, perhaps even the marine debris money.

U.S. Senator Mark Begich requested the marine debris money, and says the millions of dollars will go to eastern states as well.

The aid bill comes with one hundred fifty million dollars for fishery disasters. The money would be divided between Alaska, Gulf Coast states, and New England.

Senator Begich says it’s up to the Congressional delegation to make the pitch to NOAA for a specific amount of that $150 million.

“We weren’t one third of that, but we are a chunk. Of course the question will be: Which ones are immediate? Of course we think Alaska is immediate. The New England states – it’s not yet fully happening the disaster they’re concerned about. And the Gulf obviously has happened.”

Alaska has already declared a disaster and requested help from the federal government.

Passing the bill quickly and cleanly could prove tough. The debate in Washington is over cutting spending, and this bill would add $60 billion dollars to the debt.

Some members of the House have indicated they’ll pare the bill down, and request off-sets in spending.