Julie Anderson

GUEST COMMENTARY: Resources available to access AK CARES Grant Program

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic disaster has impacted all Alaskans. We have worked together to manage the re-opening of the economy and are slowly recovering, with more businesses resuming operations daily. Many of these businesses were required to shut down due to no fault of their own and have incurred significant economic injury. To address this issue, through the Federal CARES Act the State of Alaska received funds to provide small business relief. Working with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development recently implemented the AK CARES Grant Program. AIDEA has contracted with Credit Union 1 to administer the grant program. These grants, which range between $5,000 to $100,000, are available to small businesses based, licensed, and located in Alaska. Small businesses and non-profits that were operating when the State of Emergency was declared on March 11, 2020; have experienced significant economic injury; have 50 or fewer employees on average; and were excluded, did not qualify, or were otherwise unable to obtain funding from a federal program under the CARES Act are eligible for these grants. Applications for the AK CARES grants are available through the Credit Union 1 website. Grants differ from loans in that there is no repayment required except if funds are used inappropriately. These grant funds are to pay for eligible expenses that were incurred during the between March 11, 2020 to eight weeks after the application date. Under this program, eligible expenses include operating expenses such as: payroll, rents, utilities, personal protective equipment, and other business-related expenses. More detail is available on the AK CARES Grant website. The AK CARES program is a huge step in the right direction for Alaska’s economy. Thousands of small businesses that received no assistance and were potentially going under will now benefit from these funds. These grants are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Understanding that those in rural areas may have connectivity issues, the program has set aside up to 20 percent of $290 million that is allocated for this program for rural small business. I encourage businesses to apply if they meet the eligibility requirements. The Alaska Regional Development Organizations and the Small Business Development Center are working with us and will provide technical assistance to small businesses that may need help understanding the program or applying for the grant. Their contact information is available on our website and I encourage you to contact them for more information to help move through the process quickly. Gov. Mike Dunleavy also allocated $568 million of the CARES Act funds to Alaskan communities. These funds are available to communities to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of June 4, we have funded 58 communities with more than $58 million to stimulate the economy. Communities can implement grant programs under the CARES Act guidance to assist their residents and small businesses as well. I urge you to contact your community to see if there are other local options available to help your business through this difficult time. Julie Anderson is the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Help Alaska by supporting your local businesses

Alaska was just pulling out of a recession; the future was looking bright and then the invisible enemy attacked: COVID-19. Watching many businesses close and leave the state in the past few years was difficult, let’s do what we can to keep those that stayed viable for the future. Our businesses have a hard time in a normal winter, and this current situation goes beyond anything we have experienced in recent history. Alaska has amazing communities — some of the finest in the country — and we have wonderful local businesses. Now is the time for us to come together and support those local businesses, and the vitality and diversity they bring to our lives. I believe in the people of this state, I believe in Alaska’s future. My grandmother came to this state as a missionary nurse in 1920, lived in Nenana during the Diphtheria epidemic in 1925, and went on to raise her family there. It’s hard to imagine the challenges everyone endured. We had strong communities then and we have strong communities today. We are fortunate that we now have more tools and information at our disposal that enable us to provide economic support within the guidelines of the health mandates. It is critical that we abide by those mandates to ensure the safety of our residents and our frontline workers. Implementing necessary closures of businesses throughout the state during this COVID-19 emergency, although necessary, has been difficult on everyone. None more than on the people who have put their hearts and souls into their ventures or the employees that make the magic. These are our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and people we see at our stores and churches. They are our community. The actions we take now can have a significant positive impact in helping sustain these enterprises over the next few weeks. Let’s instill hope and confidence in our community. Utilize the take-out or delivery options at your local restaurants, breweries, and distilleries, or put a deposit down with your favorite hair dresser to get in the front of the line when they re-open for business. For those local businesses with an online presence, purchase birthday and Christmas presents, whale watching tours, or memberships to the Botanical Gardens or the museum. Support your local food bank and provide meals for those in need. If you can afford it, please don’t cancel memberships to gyms and other businesses right now; and consider donating to a local business that could use the money to stay open and keep their workers employed. Remember those small businesses that supported local fundraisers? Now it’s our turn to do the same for them. There are innumerable ways we can help keep our economy, our friends, and our neighborhoods sustainable. We are a creative bunch here in Alaska, let’s use that creativity to support our economy! To our local businesses, we appreciate you! Our team at the State Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development is here to support you. Please take a moment to look over the newly launched Alaska COVID-19 Economic Recovery Resource Portal for Business page on our website. I encourage all business owners to check this page periodically, as it will be updated as new tools become available at the State and Federal Levels. During these uncertain times, it’s crucial that we all support each other however we can. Be a good neighbor, share your resources, and assist your local businesses where you can. Julie Anderson is the Commissioner for the State of Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development.
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