These are tough times for our country. The coronavirus has killed over 181,000 Americans and the efforts to slow the spread of the virus has resulted in widespread unemployment. Nationally, over 27 million people are unemployed and the unemployment rate in Anchorage was 11 percent last month.
So far, the biggest disappointment in the pandemic response in Alaska is the flawed program to help small businesses. The intent of the AK CARES Grant Program was to get cash into the hands of small businesses. $290 million was dedicated for the program. However, only $50 million has been approved. This is unacceptable as small businesses are struggling and the jobs of thousands are threatened.
Lawyers and experts agree that Governor Dunleavy had the authority to fix the program that his administration designed and implemented in the first place. Unfortunately, it was allowed to continue not working just when it was needed the most. This has been a tortured process for Alaska's small business. Thursday, the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee (LB&A), which I chair, granted broad authority to the Governor to make needed changes to the program.
Three and a half months ago, lawmakers approved everything the Governor asked for to quickly get CARES Act funds to small businesses struggling for their very survival. It’s been clear for months that the Administration had the broad authority to get this relief to small businesses, but Thursday's action eliminates any uncertainty.
Below is information and links to the AK CARES Grant Program and some of the other help available to get us through this pandemic. I know it's not enough, but I am holding out hope that Congress and the Alaska Legislature can put aside election year politics and dedicate even more money and resources to the fight against the pandemic and the economic devastation it's causing to Alaska, our nation, and the world.
Please be safe,