Lawmakers Approve Transferring Federal COVID-19 Funds to Alaskans, Small Businesses
Legislative Budget and Audit Committee approves use of CARES Act funds.
The action follows weeks of vetting of Governor Mike Dunleavy’s proposals to spend the $1.5 billion in federal stimulus funds by LB&A–a House-Senate committee–as well as input from other members of the Legislature.
“Across our state, municipal governments, businesses, and organizations that are the fabric of our communities are fighting for survival. Today’s action provides badly needed help,” House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham) said. “Given the work of the LB&A committee, the governor agreed to adopt key legislative proposals. One example: small businesses impacted by COVID-19 will be eligible for direct cash grants rather than the governor’s earlier proposal of a new program that would issue loans that must be repaid.”
Tens of thousands of individual Alaskans and organizations impacted by COVID-19 will receive a portion of the federal relief funds directed to our state, which includes:
- $568.6 million to help communities and local governments impacted by COVID-19, distributed in a model that follows the precedent set by the longstanding Community Assistance Program.
- $290 million for the state to provide relief to Alaska small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The money will be distributed through grants at the direction of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. DCCED estimates this funding will help 10,000 small businesses that were unable to obtain loans through the federal Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.
- $100 million in economic stimulus for Alaska fisheries, which will help a wide variety of individuals and entities that rely on fishing and will be impacted by the substantial reduction in revenue associated with diminished opportunities to fish commercially or operate charters and guided fishing tours.
- $51.6 million directed in the federal CARES Act to be used for rural airports and other programs managed by the Alaska Department of Transportation, money which will go toward improvement of the statewide aviation and rural airport systems where additional needs have occurred due to COVID-19, as well as funds for the Whittier Tunnel.
- $45 million to help stabilize K-12 classrooms impacted by COVID-19.
- $42 million for child nutrition programs that serve children forced out of school by the pandemic.
- $29 million to address rural transportation costs, including the Alaska Marine Highway System.
- $10 million for the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation to help prevent homelessness. By helping people make mortgage and rent payments, Alaskans will be less likely to become homeless. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some people experiencing homelessness are at higher risk of moderate to severe symptoms of COVID-19.
- $5 million for direct financial aid grants to help University of Alaska students, and to help minimize systemic impacts of COVID-19 on the university system.
- $3.6 million in critical funding for state, local, and tribal governments to provide a range of programs including law enforcement, prosecution, indigent defense, courts, crime prevention and education, corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and more.
In This Issue
Alaska Problems Require Alaska Solutions
On January 16, a fire destroyed the water plant and washeteria in the southwest Alaska village of Tuluksak. For the village of about 350 people, it was a devastating blow. The water plant was the only source of drinking water in the village, in which the primarily Yup’ik residents lack indoor plumbing and rely on honey buckets, not uncommon in the flat, swampy region.