Updated: 1 hour ago Posted: 1 hour ago
In April 2020, Anchorage residents took a bold step by reimagining the future of our city. Voters not only supported a tax on alcohol sales, but also a tax that clearly invests in types of preventive early intervention. In February, this new tax came into effect.
Maybe you noticed the 5% tax on your receipt when you buy a bottle of wine or a six pack of beers. Maybe not. After all, it’s a small amount: only 25 cents on a $ 5 drink. While the individual increase is modest, collectively it has already had a huge impact. Together, these neighborhoods have totaled over $ 11 million in investments directly into the health, safety and well-being of our community.
Often a new tax is seen as another way to build government, not as a tool to build a thriving community. However, Anchorage’s new alcohol tax is very different. When voters approved the tax in April 2020, they also asked it to fund three main areas: public safety; prevent child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence; and preventing and treating substance abuse and mental health. The purpose of these funds was not just to “fill the queue”, but to find ways to “shorten the queue”. We are shortening the line by addressing the root causes of these societal problems, rather than continuing to fund emergency responses only.
A key priority is to fund programs focused on children, youth and families to improve outcomes for our future generations. In the first year, Anchorage residents invested $ 11 million to make a positive difference in our community. Here are some examples of this investment, but not limited to:
- Over $ 1.5 million to fund the work of a team of mental health first responders for people in crisis, rather than using police resources;
- Almost $ 1 million to strengthen our local criminal justice system by increasing funding for police, firefighters and prosecutors;
- $ 2 million to invest in our youngest citizens by expanding pre-kindergarten for low-income families, supporting the Countdown to Kindergarten outreach program and transportation to keep homeless children in school;
- An additional $ 2 million for primary prevention grants to support healthy babies, children, youth and families. These grants offer a variety of services, from direct support to parents and families at risk, to training parents and service providers to learn effective and culturally relevant practices, to educating adolescents about behaviors and relationships. healthy;
- Nearly $ 100,000 was used to establish Anchorage’s first equity and justice office, established in 2020 to focus on how the municipality can serve all residents and support employees more equitably. ; and
- Nearly $ 4 million to support mental health, addiction and homelessness programs, including downsizing camps, overnight shelters and treatment centers.
As residents of Anchorage, we are so proud that our neighbors are taking a stand and saying that we will no longer just hope for the best. We will take action and ensure that our community is moving in the right direction. The problems we are trying to solve did not arise overnight and will not be resolved overnight. However, by making our very first real investment in upstream primary prevention, we begin the process of shortening the queue and creating a desirable community that individuals and businesses want to call home. We know that this tax alone is not enough to solve all of the problems Anchorage faces, but it is a good start.
Thank you, Anchorage, for your vision and your perseverance in ensuring the development of our community. Together, we are creating a safer, smarter and more prosperous place to live.
Tiffany Room is executive director of Recover Alaska, a nonprofit organization that works with partners statewide to reduce binge drinking and harm.
Celeste Hodge Growden is President and CEO of the Alaska Black Caucus, a non-partisan organization dedicated to advancing the constitutional rights of African Americans.
Trevor Storrs is President and CEO of the Alaska Children’s Trust, or ACT, the state’s leading agency concerned with the prevention of child abuse and neglect.
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