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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Summer is rapidly coming to an end and our K-12 children start returning to school this week. I wanted to give you a quick update on the Anchorage School District's back-to-school plan, the latest on unemployment benefits in Alaska, a friendly reminder to respond to the U.S. Census, an update on the AK CARES small business grants program, and some information on voting in this year's General Election.
Back-to-School in Anchorage
Classes for the Anchorage School District (ASD) will begin today and the school year will start completely online, but that may change throughout the school year.
This year parents and students will have three different schooling options. The first option is its traditional school, called ASD in School, which is starting the year with online-only classes but may later switch to some in-person schooling. The other options are ASD's home schools, Paideia, Frontier Charter School, and Family Partnership Charter School. The final option is ASD's new online school, ASD Virtual, which is similar to a home school program but keeps your child enrolled in his or her neighborhood school.
ASD has created a risk assessment for returning to normal classroom instruction. District administrators will be watching the average number of new cases per day over a 14-day period to help track the risk of coronavirus spread. The low-risk scenario means students would attend in-person classes, the high-risk scenario means classes would be online only, and the medium-risk scenario mean a blend of online and in-person classes.
This approach is different from last spring when the district had to switch to supplemental online instruction in an emergency situation without much preparation time. Teacher workgroups have been building courses over the summer to prepare for students this fall.
ASD has announced that they will begin the school year in a high-risk category. Face coverings will be required for all ASD students, staff, and visitors at all schools and all administrative buildings. More information can be found by clicking HERE.
Students who are in need of a computer to start the school year virtually have the option of using an ASD Chromebook. Internet access will be provided for families in need. Please contact your child's school for more information.
I wish our children, their families, and the ASD teachers, staff, and administrators all the best as you navigate this new way of life toward students' best educational experiences possible under these unusual and unprecedented times.
Responding to the U.S. Census
The census is required by the U.S. Constitution to be conducted every 10 years and is used to determine how much federal funds states get, election district sizes, and more. The U.S. Census Bureau is currently gathering data for the 2020 census and it's critical that every Alaskan be counted to ensure fair representation in our elections and to bring in and allocate state and federal funds to benefit our state and local communities. As of right now Alaska is last in the nation in responding, and we stand to lose millions.
If you haven't responded, I urge you to do so right now. It only takes a few minutes to complete. The census is safe and secure. The Census Bureau keeps your answers confidential. And please encourage your friends and neighbors to respond!
You can do so:
• By Phone
• Or by Mail
Census Bureau workers can be expected to follow up with homes that have not completed the census. They will follow up by email and in-person at the door and will be wearing masks and socially distancing. If you'd like to avoid this, I strongly encourage you to apply online, by phone, or by mail.
Participate in the 2020 Census HERE.
Changes to Unemployment Insurance Benefits
Until July 31st, Alaskans receiving unemployment insurance benefits received an additional $600 per week of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC). After FPUC expired, earlier this month President Trump signed an executive order authorizing federal funding for $300 per week in an additional benefit, while giving the states the option of providing an additional $100 per week, for a possible maximum of $400 per week per recipient.
Last week Governor Dunleavy announced he would authorize the $300 per week per recipient, but not the additional $100 per week. In order to qualify for these new $300 per week benefits, the Department of Labor states that applicants must have been receiving at least $100 in unemployment benefits since the week ending August 1st. The Department reports that the benefit will be paid retroactively to the date of the loss of FPUC.
If you have any issues or questions regarding your unemployment insurance benefits, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office at 907-269-0190.
Update on AK CARES Grant Program
Under the AK CARES program, the state planned to distribute about $290 million in federal relief funds from the CARES Act to provide grants to Alaska's small businesses hit by COVID-19. The state is still in the process of processing applications for the funds and we have received calls and emails from our friends and neighbors with concerns of difficulties and delays while applying for these grants through the Credit Union 1 application process. We have shared these concerns with the administration, and to address the backlog the state recently brought in the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) to help support this process along with 20 new state employees and set up an online portal to speed up the application approvals and disburse the funds.
Who is Eligible
Recent changes to AK CARES program eligibility now allow more businesses to receive the grants.
Small businesses - including C-corps, S-corps, Partnerships, LLCs, Nonprofits (501(c)3, 501(c)6, and 501(c)19 organizations) and sole proprietorships - with operational costs impacted by COVID-19 are currently eligible when meeting the following criteria:
Alaska commercial fishing businesses with operational losses due to COVID-19 are also eligible when having held and fished a Limited Entry Permit or Interim Use Permit issued by the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commissioner (CFEC) and who meet additional criteria of the program.
Additional eligibility requirements and restrictions for small businesses and commercial fishing businesses and other information, including eligible expenses and how to apply, may be found HERE.
2020 State & Federal Elections
Tuesday was the final day to vote in Alaska's Primary Election, with traditional polling locations open for in-person voting which closed at 8pm. Nearly 63,000 Alaskans applied for an absentee ballot for the 2020 primaries. We now await the results of tight races which will be determined by final tallies of absentee voting.
If you voted absentee in the primary, remember that you must request an absentee ballot for the General Election as well. In Alaska you can request an absentee ballot for any reason. I've heard from many of you about your concerns about the potential for COVID-19 transmission at the polling locations. I understand your concerns; during this time it's important for all of us to weigh the risks to our health and the health of our families and loved ones.
If you're worried about voting in-person in the upcoming General Election, or for any reason need or want to vote without doing so at the polls, I encourage you to vote with an absentee ballot. For more voting information and to request an absentee ballot for the November 3, 2020 General Election, where you will cast your vote to elect your state legislators, U.S. congress members, as well as the President and Vice President of the United States, please visit the Alaska Division of Elections Website HERE.
Absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before the General Election Day of November 3rd, but with recent concerns over a reduction in resources to the U.S. Postal Service, it's also important that you order and return your absentee ballot as soon as possible to ensure your vote is counted.
You can also drop your absentee ballot in a secure drop box located at the Anchorage Division of Elections Office at 2525 Gambell Street prior to the close of polls on November 3rd.
As always, please call or email with any thoughts, ideas, or concerns.