|  October 30, 2014  |  
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Alaska Flight Services Receiving Back Payments Owed by Interior Department

Alaska aviation providers are finally receiving back payments from the federal government after Sen. Mark Begich intervened with the Department of the Interior on their behalf.

In a letter to Begich from DOI Secretary Ken Salazar, Salazar said the department was taking “aggressive steps to pay vendors on an emergency basis.” Salazar’s comments came in response to a letter Begich wrote in late October excoriating the department for the fact that dozens of small Alaska aviation businesses hadn’t been paid for flights taken by federal workers. In some cases, businesses were owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in back payment.

“More than anything, this was a technical issue and an example of gummed-up bureaucracy,” Begich said. “But nonetheless, small businesses were falling dangerously behind through no fault of their own.”

Salazar pointed to a transition to a new payment system as the source of the problem and said that as of November 27, 47 Alaska invoices totaling $219,899 have been paid. Salazar also pledged to work with Alaska aviation vendors to ease the data entry process associated with submitting invoices in response to complaints lodged by several Alaska businesses.

According to Joy Journeay, executive director of the Alaska Air Carriers Association (AACA), many aviation businesses are still awaiting payment, and Begich’s office continues to apply pressure on the DOI to help businesses get paid.

“AACA is sincerely thankful that Senator Begich continues to apply considerable pressure on (this issue),” Journeay said. “Our members are predominantly small businesses who cannot financially withstand this neglect from our own government. We are sincerely appreciative of the Senator’s tenacity in persisting to protect Alaskan business.”   

In Alaska, dozens of aviation providers help shuttle federal workers to their job sites in the thousands of square miles managed by the federal government. Agencies like the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and many others rely on these small businesses to access remote areas in Alaska where the agencies have jurisdiction.

“I’m glad my office was able to intervene on behalf of these businesses,” Begich said. “Aviation is a crucial industry in Alaska and these business owners clearly deserved payment.”

Aviation businesses still awaiting payment should contact Begich’s Anchorage office at 907-271-5915 and ask for Deputy State Director Schawna Thoma for assistance.

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