ANCHORAGE – More than a month after the State of Alaska received hundreds of millions of federal dollars to launch a pandemic relief program for small businesses
and nonprofits, only 11 percent of organizations to apply for funds have been approved and only $8.9 million of the $290 million available is out the door.
The failure to quickly get money to organizations devastated by COVID-19 is the key issue raised by some of the leaders who testified today during a hearing
of the House Labor and Commerce Committee.
“Implementation of the AK CARES small business and nonprofit relief program has been botched at every point,” said Rep.
Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage), chair of the committee. “The program is too restrictive, meaning thousands of struggling businesses aren’t eligible despite incredible need. To make matters worse, after 40 days, only 11
percent of the 2,154 organizations to apply have been approved. At this rate, it will be next year before many applications are processed. Alaska’s small businesses and nonprofits are struggling and urgently need our help to keep their doors open.”
Business and nonprofit leaders called for several specific changes to the AK CARES program:
- allowing 501(c)6 nonprofits, such as trade organizations and chambers of commerce, to become eligible to apply for AK CARES funding;
- giving the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development more flexibility to enact commonsense changes to the program;
- providing businesses that previously received federal COVID-19 relief funding a clear path to also receive AK CARES funds;
making commercial fishing permit holders eligible for relief.
The House Labor and Commerce Committee plans to hold a follow-up hearing next week for a status update from DCCED officials.
Below are several comments made by Alaskans during the hearing. People who were unable to testify are welcome to email testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“AK CARES is an opportunity for Alaskans to do what we do best, help each other out in the hard times. This should be simple, fast, and
efficient. We support any measure to get this money out to the community quickly.”
– Julie Estey, Wasilla Chamber of Commerce
“Over the next year, we expect 20 percent
of drinking and dining establishments to close. There are many businesses that are barely
hanging on and the quick turnaround of these applications is crucial.”
– Sarah Oates, CEO of Alaska CHARR