Journey to Wellness: Alaska's cuts painful for all; devastating for Natives

Jul 15, 2019

A little dancer mugs for the camera at the 2008 Chefornak Alaska Dance Festival. Chefornak is a rural Alaska Native village with a population of around 500 people.
Credit mcav0y/Flickr

Duluth's Dr. Mary Owen, an Alaska Native and the head of UMD's Center of American Indian and Minority Health, isn't encouraged by the news from her friends and relatives in Juneau these days.  

Alaska's budget woes are inspiring a lot of feelings right now (‘Despair, rage’: University of Alaska community braces for big budget decisions ahead) as the state University system prepares to take a 41% cut in state funding and start cutting degree programs and tenured faculty.

In the wake of a budget designed to cut $1.3 billion dollars from Alaska's $1.6 billion dollar deficit, legislators couldn't even agree where to meet on Friday, and failed to override $440 million dollars in budget line item vetoes.

But perhaps the cuts will be felt most significantly in Native Country. Medicaid was cut an additional  $50 million dollars, dental funding and senior benefits programs were eliminated, the funding cut for homelessness programs went from 2.6 to almost 14 million. In addition, the Village Public Safety Officer program and public media funding was zeroed out, programs providing law enforcement services and access to local news in communities too small to have their own police force or alternate sources of media.

More information about Alaska's budget situation can be found at Indian Country Today, and the Anchorage Daily News.