Julie Kitka: Send stimulus funds to Alaska Natives
"Gov. Sarah Palin recently announced that she intends to reject $288 million, or about 31 percent, of the $930 million in federal stimulus money available to Alaska. The Legislature may vote to accept the money anyway, but she has also held out the possibility that she may veto state legislative appropriations that accept such federal money. If the state rejects the money, the impact will fall most heavily on low-income and minority Alaskans. Over $170 million is for education, including immunizations, nutrition, special education and other assistance to school districts with large numbers of low-income students.

Per the 2000 Census, 20 percent of all Alaska Natives live in poverty, compared with 7 percent of all non-Native Alaskans; the 2010 Census will show little change in these figures. Unemployment in most villages exceeds 75 percent, leaving only subsistence activities to provide basic food.

Non-Native test scores on math and language are almost double the scores of Native students. Native high school drop-out rates are almost double those of non-Natives. I know of no group of Americans with a greater need for educational support than Alaska Natives, yet they are the people who will be most hurt by the governor's intent. Little wonder that so many professional educators in Alaska object strenuously to her plan.

Fuel oil costs for heating in rural villages have risen to more than $6 a gallon. In one village last summer, a gallon of gasoline cost $11; and it is impossible to practice subsistence without gasoline for outboard motors and snowmachines. In addition, the Palin administration has consistently tried to weaken laws that protect rural subsistence rights, threatening the entire food base of the Bush."

Get the Story:
Julie Kitka: Native groups should get stimulus aid if state declines it (The Anchorage Daily News 4/2)

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:
H.R.1 | S.1

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