June 25, 2020
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With summer officially here, I hope that everyone is enjoying the longer days and the sunshine while staying safe. Things have quieted down for the moment on the legislative front. I am using the spare time I now find myself with to research various policy issues facing Alaska and help constituents navigate the difficulties of COVID-19 economic relief as best as I can. I am also excited for the forthcoming work I will be doing as a member of the new Taskforce on Therapeutic Courts.
One of the most positive aspects of the interim is that I get a chance to really connect with my constituents. Though I won’t be going door to door this summer or holding any in person events, I’m always happy to talk with you and hear your ideas. Some of you might have received a card from my office recently with ideas for staying involved in your government but, in case you did not, here is what I sent:
I hope that you continue to make your voice heard and stay engaged with the political process. With so many meetings and events using a digital format, it is now in some ways easier to participate.
Housing Help- State and Municipality Assistance Programs Are Currently Available
There are currently two housing assistance programs available to Anchorage residents in need: one through the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and one through the Municipality of Anchorage and United Way.
The AHFC Alaska Housing Relief Program gives Alaskans a chance to get help to cover rent and mortgage payments. The grants of up to $1,200 will be determined by a lottery. Payments will be made directly to landlords or mortgage lenders.
To be eligible for this program applicants must be earning less than 80% of the median income for their community. Applicants must also be able to show that their household income has been reduced due to COVID-19. AHFC anticipates giving out over 8,000 grants.
The application period for AFHC grants closes tomorrow, Friday, June 26th. Apply today at AlaskaHousingRelief.org.
The MoA assistance program application period will remain open until funds are exhausted or September 30, 2020, whichever comes first.
To apply for this program, residents need to call 2-1-1 and answer a series of screening questions. Interpreters are available at 2-1-1 to provide translation services over the phone. All screened applicants will be contacted to set up an appointment. Applicants will need to bring a photo ID, a rental/lease agreement or mortgage statement, and a copy of their most recent paystub or self-employment identification. Rental or mortgage assistance will be made out directly to landlords or mortgage companies, not to renters or borrowers.
Helpful Tips to Get Out and Play
This summer, despite the pandemic, more and more Alaskans are going outside to play. Alaska is a great place to enjoy the great outdoors, but we should all still use caution as we venture out. Additionally, families with children are weighing the pros and cons of their children participating in team sports or group activities.
The DHSS “Play Every Day” program published a helpful blog post on this topic recently. Here are some highlights from the advice they provided:
- Carefully weigh your risks-
It is up to each individual family to decide what is best for them. Dr. Zink suggests you ask first the following questions: How much risk is your family willing to accept? Do you work with someone at higher risk of serious illness or have someone at higher risk in your small, trusted social bubble? She also suggests you look at mitigation plans that the activity has in place and choose activities that follow best practices to reduce the spread.
- Pick one favorite activity-
Reduce potential for exposure by working with your family to carefully decide which activity each person values most. If your child usually does 3 or 4 sports have them decide which one matters the most to them.
- Try not to pack the stands-
Avoid being in a large group of spectators. If you choose to watch a sporting event (your child’s Little League game or soccer practice) make sure to keep your distance and avoid congregating. Bring your own chair or blanket and find a little area to call your own. Look for ways to watch that do not involve attending the game in person such as having one parent stream the game on Facebook Live so others can watch at a distance.
While sharing is usually a big part of summer activities it also means sharing of germs. This year play it safe and avoid sharing food or drinks. Also make sure that athletic equipment is not shared whenever possible. If any equipment must be shared, for example balls, these should be sanitized frequently.
In this post Dr. Zink noted the following: “I know how important summer sports are to families. I’m hearing from a lot of parents wondering what to do. These are really hard decisions to make, and what works for one family may not work for another. If you spend time with an older person or someone else facing higher chances of illness, it’s very important to make sure your other interactions with people are at a distance. That includes your time participating in and watching sports.”
Please continue to exercise caution and care with your interactions with others. It is up to all of us to stop the spread. We are all in this together.
Alaskans who need help or connection to information about services, including those related to COVID-19 impacts, can dial 2-1-1 from their phones. You can also reach out via email to Alaska211@ak.org or dial 1-800-478-2221.
Representative Andy Josephson
Alaska House of Representatives, District 17
Serving Midtown, University and East Anchorage Neighborhoods