Last Thursday, as a member of the Legislative Budget and Audit (LB&A) Committee, I voted to approve the following changes to the AK CARES Grant Program:
- Allow applicants who received any amount of Small Business Administration like the Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loan to be eligible.
- Allow applicants whose business is a secondary source of income to apply.
- Gives the administration flexibility with eligibility requirements as needed.
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. Three months have passed, and as of last Monday, only about $39.9 million has been distributed, despite receiving $214.4 million in requests. This is terrible at a time when the small businesses who employ over 140,000 Alaskans are struggling.
In hearings I held as the chair of the House Labor & Commerce Committee, we heard from small Alaskan business and non-profit owners that the application process is cumbersome. I supported loosening the eligibility requirements of this grant program to benefit small Alaskan businesses and non-profits and moving an online application to speed up distribution of these funds.
With these changes, applications for the AK CARES program now total more than the $290 million that is currently budgeted for this program. We need to work on securing additional funding for this critical program.