Gov. Mike Dunleavy sent a letter to the White House asking for federal action to get cruise ship passengers, like the ones seen here in this 2017 file photo, back in Alaska. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy sent a letter to the White House asking for federal action to get cruise ship passengers, like the ones seen here in this 2017 file photo, back in Alaska. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Dunleavy asks White House to allow cruises

Without cruises, Alaska’s economy’s in trouble

Gov. Mike Dunleavy sent a letter to the White House Thursday, urging President Biden to take action to allow cruise ships to travel to Alaska this summer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has banned cruise ships from sailing, and though the agency updated its guidelines recently, no date has been set for the ban to be lifted. But the availability of vaccines and the state’s relatively low health metrics made the state a leader in coronavirus response, the governor said in his letter.

“Today, I am reaching out with the simple request that you have the (CDC) update its guidance to enable cruise lines and ports to resume operations,” Dunleavy said in the letter. “It’s my hope that (federal authorities) are willing to work with me and other governors seeking to bring back the cruise ship industry.”

Along with the letter, Dunleavy sent an economic report drafted by several state agencies detailing the impacts not having a 2021 cruise season would have on the Alaskan economy.

[New guidelines for cruise ships, but Alaska’s still off the itinerary]

The report details the way not just workers and businesses directly associated with tourism are impacted, but how the lack of those jobs impacts the rest of the state’s economy, according to Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Tamika Ledbetter. The downstream impacts of the loss of a tourism season have already been significant, Ledbetter told reporters Thursday, saying the amount of unemployment insurance claims processed by the state increased more than tenfold.

Small business revenue down 12% statewide compared to pre-COVID, the report said, and many small businesses have closed.

The state’s unemployment insurance trust fund has paid out over $1.0 billion in the last 14 months with monthly claims rising as high as $182 million, which the report says is 20 times the amount paid in January preceding the COVID-19 situation. The balance of the UI trust fund was $492.9 million in February of 2020 as compared to the latest balance of $265.8 million, according to the report.

However, not mentioned in the governor’s letter or the report is the Passenger Vessel Services Act, which is also preventing larger, foreign-flagged cruise ships from sailing to Alaska. Alaska’s congressional delegation has submitted federal legislation to temporarily waive that law, but Alaskan officials including the governor stress the need for immediate action.

The CDC’s recent decision to extend the cruise ship ban, Dunleavy said in his letter, “eliminates any potential for a 2021 cruise ship sailing season, and places the futures of thousands of Alaskan families’ businesses in peril.

Contact reporter Peter Segall at Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

More in News

A DNR map of navigable and non-navigable waters are seen on the Kenai Peninsula. (Screenshot)
State unveils maps in effort to ‘unlock’ Alaska waters

The maps are part of an initiative to assert control of state lands.

On Monday, the final day of the May long weekend, Harri Herter from Kamloops takes turns and gives friends thrilling jetski rides on little Shuswap Lake. - Image credit: Rick Koch photo.
Lawsuit challenges Jet Ski use in bay

Coalition of environmental groups says Fish and Game’s process to rescind JetSki ban was illegal

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska, with a number of state legislators around him. Dunleavy discussed a proposed constitutional amendment dealing with the Alaska Permanent Fund and the Permanent Fund dividend. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
Dunleavy proposes new changes to Permanent Fund

The changes are an amendment to updates he proposed earlier this year.

A vial of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is seen at Central Emergency Services Station 1 on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Youth 12-15 years old can now get vaccinated

Borough emergency management is working to assist the Pfizer vaccine rollout efforts to the new eligible population.

Megan Pike, Kenai Watershed Forum’s education specialist and Adopt-A-Stream program coordinator, wades into Soldotna Creek to dig up creek bed samples for a group of Connections Homeschool students to parse through for macroinvertebrate sampling, on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Summer camp registrations open at Kenai Watershed Forum

The forum canceled its summer events last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The entrance to the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska, photographed on Feb. 26, 2019. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Identity of Alaska Court System hacker still unknown

The system was able to restore email access Tuesday.

U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham addresses state and Alaska Native leaders Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
State redistricting may take longer this year

State legislative districts are redrawn by a board of five people following the decennial census.

The badge for the Kenai Police Department
Man arrested in break-in at Kenai Central High School

The man, 36-year-old Christopher D. Stroh, allegedly stole miscellaneous items from the school on Sunday.

Most Read