Disaster aid for Alaska to be linked to relief for Calif. wildfires

Photo of U.S. Capitol by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media

The federal government has kicked in the first $5 million to help Alaska deal with the immediate effects of the earthquake. But the big money will have to come from Congress. Sen. Lisa Murkowski says disaster funds for Alaska will likely be included in a bill with aid for the victims of the California wildfires.

“What we’ve been told is we’ll have that opportunity when the wildfires are addressed in January,” she told reporters at the U.S. Capitol.

Congress is working on a disaster spending bill that has to pass this month, but Murkowski said it’s mostly for hurricane damage. She’s been reassuring Alaska agencies that they shouldn’t rush their damage assessments of schools and bridges.

“Take the time to get it right. Take the time to get it accurate,” Murkowski said. “We don’t want to be in a situation where we have underestimated what actual damages is.”

Congress is sometimes slow to pass disaster relief bills. Murkowski said it’s good the fate of Alaska’s money will be tied to that for a much larger state.

“There’s a great many people in California that are hoping that we get moving very, very quickly in January with a disaster bill that will address their needs as well,” she said. “So Alaska is not alone in this.”

Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan were in Alaska early this week to view the quake damage and response operations.