Dear Neighbors & Friends,
Hope everyone is hanging in there! Now in week four of hunker down neighbors have stepped up to be a part of the effort to flatten the curve and not overwhelm our health care resources. Our numbers continue to go up, but at a rate that demonstrates that our aggressive efforts are making a difference. It’s encouraging to see this because I know it’s a challenge and this bit of good news can help us feel committed to these efforts for the long-term. Thank you for doing your part by staying home. In the last week a lot has changed – we are finding new ways to connect, the operating budget was signed, and the Spring Revenue Forecast was released. Please see below for updates on all of these!
I’ve been moved by the community spirit of neighbors and the new ways we are showing how much we care about each other. Those online smiles and messages are so appreciated! It brings tears to my eyes to see the efforts of our educators during this time. They have their own families, their own health, their own bills to worry about, yet through it all they are still thinking of their students. They are working hard to make distance learning work. They are even excited to just see their students faces so they know they are ok. We are so lucky to have these incredible professionals for our students! Pictured to the right is a message from Tyson Elementary School teachers and staff for their students. Colored coded no less. Just awesome. Thank you Tyson Elementary School for giving me those feelings of deep appreciation and community!
OPERATING BUDGET AND VETOES
The big news is the Operating Budget was signed yesterday, with many vetoes. One can speculate on the vetoes, but it is interesting to note that they were priorities for the House and Senate Majorities. Some are suggesting retaliation for not supporting other budget measures the Governor wanted, like a spending cap. It’s unfortunate if that is true because all work was stopped due to Covid-19 and I would think the Governor would understand that.
Some of these actions are just head scratchers. For example, Governor Dunleavy vetoed funding for pre-k, a proven way to improve student outcomes. In doing so he said it wasn’t the right time. However, his priority for this session, the Alaska Reads Act, actually phases in a statewide pre-k program over a number of years. When pressed on this the Governor stated he will support pre-k if the Alaska Reads Act passes, but not now. These are the kind of actions that really infuriate me. Kids don’t deserve their education to be held hostage over priority legislation. Everyone supports the Alaska Reads Act. It will pass. We did everything we could to rush the bill, but there just wasn’t time and on something this important we want to get it right.
The Governor also stated he would be using some of the $1.25 billion of federal relief to fund most of the vetoed items. There is a lot of mixed information on this. These funds are supposed to be for Covid-19 response, but Governor Dunleavy has indicated he will use these funds for items like school bond debt reimbursement. Problem is we have been told that the funds can’t be used for that purpose. That creates a problem. The CARES act limits these federal funds to COVID-19 response between March 1st and December 31st, 2020 for fund services which weren't already funded by the state. Other funding, such as the $5 million to AHFC for Covid-19 homelessness will certainly be allowed. This news comes at a time when neighbors are already feeling uncertain. As we get more information we will share here and on Facebook.
Highlights of the vetoes:
• Community Assistance – Veto $1,268,500 DGF (FY2021) and $30,000,000 UGF Supplemental Deposit
• Regional Educational Attendance Area – Total: $36,739,000 UGF
• School Bond Debt Reimbursement – Total: $100,154,200 UGF/DGF
• Anchorage Response Grant – Total: $2,700,000 UGF
• One-Time Education Funding Outside of the Formula – Total: $30,000,000 UGF
• One-Time AHFC Homeless Grant – Total: $5,000,000 UGF
• Non-Mandatory Municipal Debt Reimbursement – Total: 2,354,400 UGF
• Medicaid – Veto $31,000,000 (FY2020 Supplemental, UGF/Federal)
• Alaska Marine Highway System – Veto $15,548,300 UGF and
• Ocean Rangers – Veto $3,426,000 Other
• University of Alaska – Veto $12,500,000 UGF
• Pre-Kindergarten Grants – Total: $4,300,000 UGF
• Public Broadcasting – Veto $2,036,600 UGF for Radio, $633,300 UGF for TV
You can read more here: https://omb.alaska.gov/…/…/Veto_Items_of_Interest_4.6.20.pdf
SPRING REVENUE FORECAST COMES OUT THIS WEEK
Twice a year the Alaska Department of Revenue produces a Revenue Forecast book. This is what the legislature uses to estimate the funds we will have available for state services. They use experts in their field and data available through the sources like Department of Natural Resources related to plans for oil and mining exploration and development, historical information related to resources like fisheries, other revenue sources like the bed tax, corporate income tax, and alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana taxes. This was generally a pretty reliable document, but with wild swings in oil prices you’ll see this year’s Spring Forecast has some substantial adjustments, unfortunately for us they are reductions, in revenue for the coming fiscal year. Please see the chart below for an update from last week.
Programs are getting up and running, but because of demand there is a delay. This can cause more stress and I hope that in the coming days and weeks we can bring back some sense of security. As a quick recap, here are some of the resources now –
Unemployment Insurance – The Department of Labor has received over 36,000 applications in the last few weeks. They are recommending applying online first and then calling to follow up. They can handle 250 calls at once so please call back because you will get through.
Visit here for more information https://labor.alaska.gov/
Small business relief: Please also see this link and click on the option for business owners: https://labor.alaska.gov/.
The Small Business Administration offers the federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans, help with the Paycheck Protection Act, bridge loans, and debt relief. Visit here for more information: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options.
Here at home, the Anchorage Community Land Trust has created a resource guide. Click here for more information: https://mailchi.mp/5e7394c83dab/what-can-your-business-do-to-stay-afloat-during-covid-2641613?e=[UNIQID]. While ACLT typically focuses programs for the target neighborhoods of Mountain View, Fairview, Spenard, and Muldoon, due to Covid-19 they have opened up their services to businesses outside of these neighborhoods. Please get in touch and see if they can help you!
UPCOMING COMMUNITY COUNCIL MEETINGS
Community Councils have been canceled in the near term. Some are trying to find ways to meet with virtual meetings.
We will keep you posted on future meetings.
Until next week,
P.S. Please let us know if we can help you with any Covid-19 questions. We are available, although to practice safe physical distancing, are working remotely. If you get voicemail for the office phone you can call me on my cell at 360-4047.