Thursday July 16th, 2020
In this issue:
  • Update on the AK CARES Grant program for small businesses & non-profits
  • Investing in Alaska's children
  • Apply to vote by mail
  • Alaska's fiscal situation
  • Stay in touch with me and my office
Update on the AK CARES State Grant Program
This Tuesday, as chair of the House Labor & Commerce Committee, I held another investigative hearing on the AK CARES Grant Program.

In May, the Dunleavy administration estimated that they could distribute around $150 million of the $289 million in relief in the first month of the program. Over a month has passed, and as of Monday, only about $11 million has been distributed, despite receiving $98 million in requests.

Currently, Credit Union 1 is the sole program operator for this grant program, and they are struggling to process all the applications in a timely manner because of bureaucratic program requirements established by the Dunleavy Administration.

In an attempt to process applications more quickly, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, (AIDEA), and the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, (DCCED), put out a request for proposals (RFP), to get more program operators online. Unfortunately, there are no additional bidders at this time and no end sight for the delays in processing the applications.

There is some good news on this front this week, as the injunction that could have potentially held up these critical funds was denied by the court. As a result, DCCED plans to move forward with improvements to the program, including:

  • Changing eligibility requirements so that non-profits and business owners who have received less than $5,000 in other federal aid can apply;
  • Making commercial fisherman eligible; and,
  • Making 501(c)6 organizations, like local Chambers of Commerce and trade associations, eligible for the program.

Despite these positive changes, there is still a lot of work to be done on this program. Frankly, I am disappointed with the administration's inability to quickly distribute these grants and will continue to monitor this program going forward.
Investing in Alaska's Children
The Alaska Children's Trust recently released an analysis of the State of Alaska's budget to identify how much of our state's budget is dedicated to our children. 1/3 of our state's total budget goes directly to our children, which is great.

However, the "Children's Budget" is nearly 12.5% smaller than average spending earlier in the decade. This decline is equal to $400 million annually.

Alaska currently ranks 45th in the nation for child well-being compared to five years ago when Alaska was 27th. This reflects a budget that hasn't kept pace with costs at the same time that we are seeing increases in poverty and child abuse and neglect.

The most important thing that we do is to care for and support our children and families. The state budget should be a reflection of those values.
Apply to Vote by Mail
Alaskans will have the choice this upcoming August to either vote in person or vote by mail from home. Voting by mail is safe, convenient, and secure. Any Alaskan can request to have their ballot mailed to their home.

  • Apply online

Visit absenteeballotapplication.alaska.gov and fill out the information fields. You will need your driver's license or state ID on hand. Note that the application is a little easier from your computer rather than your phone.

  • Apply by mail

If you prefer you can also apply using a PDF form you can print and send in. Fill out the PDF application form and return it to the Absentee and Petition office by mail, fax, or email.

If you encounter any difficulties or otherwise need help applying to vote by mail, you can contact the Absentee and Petition office for assistance:

Phone: (907) 270-2700 (Anchorage)
Toll-Free: (877) 375-6508 (within the U.S.)
Alaska's Fiscal Situation
While we deal with the immediate threat that COVID-19 has on the health of our communities and our economy, the problem of how to pay for the essential state services that keep our communities working is still ahead of us.

The price of oil has dropped and we have less oil revenue than ever. This has just been made worse by COVID-19's impact on demand for oil both because of less transportation and less manufacturing.

We've already done the difficult work of making significant reductions. Since FY13, we have cut per person UGF spending by 50%. These are real cuts to education, public safety, courts, road maintenance, ferries and more.

We made great progress towards a balanced budget, and protecting the Permanent Fund in 2018, when we passed SB 26. SB 26 allowed us to use some Permanent Fund earnings to pay for essential public services and protected against overspending from the Permanent Fund's Earnings Reserve Account.

It was progress, but we can't spend more of the Permanent Fund without degrading the value of the fund for the future or further PFD reductions for Alaskans. For every $1 billion we take from the Permanent Fund today, we lose over $50 million in interest earned every year--forever.

Alaska has used our savings to bridge the gap for years, but there aren't any more savings to use. We have more difficult work ahead of us now. We must pass a real fiscal plan if we want to protect the Permanent Fund, our schools, our roads, and the safety of our communities.
I'm Here as a Resource When you Need Me
To comply with ethics guidelines around legislative communications during the time leading up to an election, I will be taking a break from sending you regular email updates until mid-August. But that doesn't mean that I'm not still working, or that my staff and I aren't available to help.

These are tough times. COVID-19 is putting unprecedented stress on Alaskans--both in terms of our health and because of the economic impacts of the public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

However, Alaskans always help Alaskans. Now we need to do that more than ever. Please let me know if there is anything my team or I can do to help you.

We have been helping Alaskans get information about unemployment, small business relief and more. We are working remotely but checking our voicemails and emails regularly.

We are here to help!
Phone Number: (907) 269-0123
Stay in Touch and Stay Engaged
(202) 224-6665

(202) 224-3004

(202) 225-5765

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Anchorage Daily News
(907) 257-4200