Alaska Legislature restricts travel and state imposes out-of-state travel ban and freezes hiring

Ben Stevens, Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s chief of staff, speaks at a forum last year. On Monday, Stevens announced a freeze on hiring new state workers and suspended all out-of-state travel for state workers. (Photo by Nat Herz/Alaska Public Media)

The state has instituted a freeze on hiring new state workers, and has suspended all out-of-state travel for state workers.

Ben Stevens, the chief of staff to Gov. Mike Dunleavy, said in a memo to state workers on Monday that these are cost-saving measures in reaction to lower oil prices. He did not cite coronavirus.

Related: Lawmakers crafting plan to end session if coronavirus comes to Juneau

The hiring freeze applies to all positions that aren’t defined as essential to protect Alaskans. The out-of-state travel suspension affects all state workers.

Legislative leaders also announced restrictions on out-of-state travel. Their restriction is intended to protect “our entire legislative family and the function of the legislature” during the session in Juneau. The leaders also strongly suggested staff’s personal out-of-state travel be curtailed.

Senate President Cathy Giessel explained that their decision was based on health precautions.

“There’s a virus out there,” she said, “And if someone comes in and infects the others, we have to close.”

Read more coverage of the coronavirus in Alaska.