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 psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

More in News

Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank, left, and Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander present during a budget work session on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Flat mill rate, sales tax included in Kenai budget proposal

The budget proposal is subject to final approval by the Kenai City Council

t
Senate effectively kills restrictive transgender sports bill

Bipartisan group of senators votes to table controversial bill

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, chair of the bicameral conference committee tasked with hammering out differences in the state’s budget bill, signs the committee report as members finished their work on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Committee compromises on PFD in budget plan

Members of the conference committee agreed Tuesday to a payment of about $3,800

Graduates laugh during teacher Jesse Bjorkman’s 2022 commencement address at Nikiski Middle/High School on Monday, May 16, 2022 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Nikiski Middle/High School graduates 31 students

The commencement ceremony was held Monday in the school gym

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Members of the Alaska House of Representatives on Saturday rejected the budget bill passed by the Senate earlier in the week. The bill will now go to a bicameral committee for negotiations, but the end of the legislative session is Wednesday.
House votes down Senate’s budget as end of session nears

State budget now goes to negotiating committee

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Candidate for Alaska’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives Tara Sweeney, a Republican, was in Juneau on Monday and sat down with the Empire for an interview. Sweeney said the three main pillars of her campaign are the economy, jobs and healthy communities.
Sweeney cites experience in run for Congress

GOP candidate touts her history of government-related work

One tree stands in front of the Kenai Post Office on Thursday, May 12, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai taking down hazard beetle trees

The city hopes to leverage grant funds for most of the work

Former Alaska governor and current congressional hopeful Sarah Palin speaks with attendees at a meet-and-greet event outside of Ginger’s Restaurant on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Palin brings congressional bid to Soldotna

The former governor took time Saturday to sign autographs and take pictures with attendees

Most Read