Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Help for Communities and Small Businesses

The members of the House and Senate returned to Juneau this week to wrap up a legislative session unlike any other in Alaska's history. The COVID-19 pandemic forced a lengthy legislative recess in late March, which left much of the Alaska Legislature's work undone.

Just as lawmakers were headed home to hunker-down, Congress passed a $2 trillion COVID-19 relief and stimulus bill known as the CARES Act. The act included $1.5 billion to help the State of Alaska respond to the public health emergency. The money was not accounted for in the approved budget for the State of Alaska, which raised a lot of questions about how to legally accept and use the money. Ultimately a legal challenge forced lawmakers to return to Juneau to formally accept the federal funding. House Bill 313 passed the House on Tuesday and the Senate approved the bill this morning. The details of the bill are below.

As we head into the summer months, please remember to be vigilant in protecting yourself and your friends and family from the coronavirus. Practice reasonable social distancing, wash your hands frequently, and if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop symptoms, contact your local health care provider.

Please be safe,

Chris Tuck
Federal COVID-19 Relief
House Bill 313 ratifies the actions of the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee to accept and appropriate nearly $1.25 billion in federal funds.

  • HB 313 passed the Senate by a vote of 19-1.
  • HB 313 passed the House by a vote of 38-1.
  • The bill nullifies a lawsuit challenging the LB&A actions.

HB 313 authorizes:

$568.6 million to help communities and local governments impacted by COVID-19.

  • The money will be distributed in a model that follows the precedent set by the longstanding Community Assistance Program.
  • $750,000 for Alaska Regional Development Organizations.

$290 million for the state to provide relief to Alaska small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

  • The Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development will distribute grants to 10,000 small businesses.
  • Eligible businesses are those that were unable to obtain loans through the federal Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.
  • AIDEA will operate the program through a contract with Credit Union 1.
  • The grants will go to small businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees.
  • The grants can be up to $100,000.
  • Non-profit organizations will likely be eligible for the grants.

$100 million in economic stimulus for Alaska fisheries.

  • Funds can go to commercial fishermen, fishing guides, and charter operators.

$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.

  • $14 million in FY 20.
  • $35 million in FY 21.
  • The CARES Act included $10 billion for airports across the country. 

$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.
Help For Those on the Front Lines
As we work to protect the health and well being of our friends and families during the COVID-19 pandemic, I can't help but worry about those on the front lines of the response in Alaska.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has launched a free service to help Alaska's first responders and health care professionals.

Help is just a call away thanks to the AK Responders Relief Line. This free, anonymous call line can help with referrals for behavioral health support, including immediate help for those overwhelmed with thoughts of suicide. The relief line can also help with resources for housing assistance and food.

The AK Relief Line is open 24 hours a day and its totally anonymous. If you need help, call 844-985-8275 anytime.