“Chignik is used to catching more than a million sockeye every year,” Walker said. “This year they caught 128 fish. Salmon is the economic and subsistence staple in these communities and the failure of this year’s fishery is a one-two punch. It is critical that we do what we can to support them as they work to recover; that’s what we’re here for.”
The disaster declaration allows the Alaska Legislature to appropriate money for assistance grants and allows the governor to make budget recommendations to legislators to accelerate the region’s existing capital projects and provide funding for new ones.
Walker has also directed the state’s Division of Economic Development to commit as many resources as possible to assist salmon permit holders participating in the Commercial Fishing Revolving Loan program unable to meet terms of their loans because of the low harvest.
“Declaring an economic disaster increases the ability of the state’s Division of Economic Development to work with commercial fishermen impacted by the disaster,” noted Micaela Fowler, a policy analyst with Alaska Office of Management and Budget. “It allows for greater flexibility to repayment (of loan) plans.” And while an appropriations bill is needed to fund capital projects, economic disaster stats would allow for additional flexibility with procurement and hiring practices once the money is appropriated, she added.