Alaska Legislature

CDC

The deadline for businesses to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program was extended last week and now runs until August 8.

The PPP offers loans to businesses for relief from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. These loans become grants and don’t have to be paid back as long as 60 percent of the money is used for payroll and other eligible expenses. The program surfaced in March, and while many businesses applied for it then, others were left out. Notably, commercial fishermen were largely excluded, as many pay their employees through 1099 forms as independent contractors rather than as W2 employees.

The Alaska CARES program has been live for about a month now. The program is supposed to distribute grants to businesses to help with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with funding that came to the state from the federal government. Gov. Mike Dunleavy said he wanted about $150 million to go out within the first 30 days to help keep businesses from going under.

That’s not how it’s worked out so far. Of the nearly two thousand applications submitted by Monday this week, less than 10 percent had been approved. There a handful of problems with the program, but the biggest one is that any small business that got aid through the federal Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Impact Disaster Loan programs is ineligible for it.

Voters in the Kenai-Soldotna area will have a handful of candidates to choose from this fall when deciding who they want to represent them in the state House of Representatives. One caveat: they’re all conservative, and three are running in the primary on Aug. 18.

District 30 is currently represented by Gary Knopp, a two-term representative from Kenai. He’s running for a third term, but Ron Gillham of Ridgeway, Kelly Wolf of Kenai, and James Baisden of Nikiski have all stepped forward to challenge him. Gillham and Wolf are running as Republicans in the primary, while Baisden is running as a nonpartisan candidate in the general.

Campaigning during a pandemic is going to look different this year. Gone are the days of big, in-person town halls and door-to-door canvassing. But that hasn’t stopped a full field of Kenai Peninsula candidates from setting their sights on the Legislature this fall.

House of Representatives District 29 covers Nikiski, part of Cooper Landing, Hope and Seward. First-term Rep. Ben Carpenter, a Nikiski Republican, is running for reelection. He’s got at least one challenger in the fall — Paul Dale, of Nikiski, who filed as a nonpartisan.

Carpenter comments net national blowback

May 19, 2020
State of Alaska

This week, the Legislature returned to Juneau from a recess to work on distributing COVID-19 relief funds in the state. Because they were coming from all over the state to gather in a single building before going back home to their communities, legislators were required to wear masks and be temperature checked as they headed into the building. Once they were checked, they would receive a sticker noting that they were clear of symptoms.

The stickers turned out to be a source of controversy. In an email posted to social media, Rep. Ben Carpenter of Nikiski compared the stickers to the badges with a yellow Star of David on them, which Jews in Nazi Germany were forced to wear as identification prior to being segregated and later shipped to concentration camps.

Chaos quickly followed. Comments were polarized on both sides, with critics saying it was offensive to compare a health screening to genocide, and supporters saying his comments were misunderstood and taken out of context.

Carpenter apologized for the analogy and said he was trying to make a point about loss of liberties and government overreach amid the pandemic response. He also noted concerns about the Legislature requiring the general public to wear similar stickers in the future, noting their medical status.

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