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Sen. Olson calls for REAL ID extension to benefit rural Alaska residents

Jan 6, 2020

State Sen Donny Olson of Golovin in 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

One Alaska representative wants Gov. Mike Dunleavy to ask President Donald Trump for an extension of the REAL ID deadline and additional funding for outreach in rural communities.

Olson wrote Tuesday to the governor that both Dunleavy and Trump have a responsibility to ensure the ID mandate is implemented properly so that Alaskans’ rights to travel are not infringed upon.

As of October 1st, a REAL ID or other acceptable identification, such as a passport or a Bureau of Indian Affairs card with a photo, would be required for commercial air travel and to enter federal buildings or military bases. Alaskans in remote communities especially rely on air-travel for medical appointments and Olson says they’re concerned.

“Let’s say that somebody out of Shishmaref or Savoonga goes ahead and gets Medevac’ed straight to Anchorage. If they get down there and don’t have a REAL ID they will be prohibited from getting on the jet to go back to Nome and go back to their respective villages.”

Alaskans are not able to apply by mail, meaning many village residents, like Senator Olson himself, will have to fly to their nearest DMV location, in hub cities such as Nome or Bethel.

“So here in Golovin to get to Nome it’s $190," Olson said. "That’s $380 roundtrip.”

Olson’s letter follows a December announcement from Alaska Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tsibaka asking for $60,000 to create a rural outreach program to help rural Alaskans obtain the REAL ID.

Olson calls the mandate “unwanted” and writes to Dunleavy the state should be doing everything possible to reach out to every rural Alaskan to be REAL ID compliant for the October 1st deadline. He suggests a rural outreach program where officials would make multiple visits to villages.

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