Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a disaster declaration for the village of Tuluksak on Monday.
The declaration comes nearly a month after a fire destroyed the village’s only source of drinking water. In the interim, residents of Tuluksak have been drinking bottled water donated by private citizens and businesses.
After a weekend of mounting social media pressure, including from the band Black Eyed Peas, the governor issued the declaration, freeing up $1 million in state relief funds.
“Today the governor has verbally issued a disaster declaration for Tuluksak. The declaration will open up public assistance,” said Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, Commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
Paul Nelson, the director of the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said the funds will go toward reimbursing agencies who have already stepped up, like the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, which has been fronting payments for initial infrastructure construction.
Nelson said it took the state this long to respond because they needed extra time to analyze the situation. He also said immediate response is reserved for life-threatening emergencies.
“To declare disaster immediately when an event happens is usually only reserved for when the community is utterly overwhelmed. And there is an imminent or immediate life threat,” Nelson said.