Lawmakers approve federal COVID-19 funds for Alaskans, small businesses
Alaska’s Legislative Budget and Audit Committee (LB&A) on Monday evening approved Gov. Dunleavy’s federal funding plan for Alaskans and Alaskan small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The economic aid plan will distribute over $1 billion in relief granted to the state through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
The LB&A meeting was dominated by a discussion about whether or not the full Legislature needed to approve the governor’s plan, but ultimately, the funding allocations were approved.
A press release from the Alaska House Majority detailed the following allocations within the federal relief funds directed to Alaska:
- $568.6 million to help communities and local governments impacted by COVID-19, distributed in a model that follows the precedent set by the longstanding Community Assistance Program.
- $290 million for the state to provide relief to Alaska small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The money will be distributed through grants at the direction of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. DCCED estimates this funding will help 10,000 small businesses that were unable to obtain loans through the federal Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.
- $100 million in economic stimulus for Alaska fisheries, which will help a wide variety of individuals and entities that rely on fishing and will be impacted by the substantial reduction in revenue associated with diminished opportunities to fish commercially or operate charters and guided fishing tours.
- $51.6 million directed in the federal CARES Act to be used for rural airports and other programs managed by the Alaska Department of Transportation, money which will go toward improvement of the statewide aviation and rural airport systems where additional needs have occurred due to COVID-19, as well as funds for the Whittier Tunnel.
- $45 million to help stabilize K-12 classrooms impacted by COVID-19.
- $42 million for child nutrition programs that serve children forced out of school by the pandemic.
- $29 million to address rural transportation costs, including the Alaska Marine Highway System.
- $10 million for the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation to help prevent homelessness. By helping people make mortgage and rent payments, Alaskans will be less likely to become homeless. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some people experiencing homelessness are at higher risk of moderate to severe symptoms of COVID-19.
- $5 million for direct financial aid grants to help University of Alaska students, and to help minimize systemic impacts of COVID-19 on the university system.
- $3.6 million in critical funding for state, local, and tribal governments to provide a range of programs including law enforcement, prosecution, indigent defense, courts, crime prevention and education, corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and more.