CARES Act

AHFC

A whopping 30,000 Alaska households sent in applications to the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation for its latest round of COVID-19 rent relief. 

About 1,600 of those came from within the Kenai Peninsula Borough. AHFC spokesperson Stacy Barnes said the organization is working through applications in priority order.

“Which means those people who have been unemployed for 90 days or more or are of the lowest income," she said.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Another Kenai Peninsula city is putting thousands toward a shop local incentive program.

Seward is following Kenai and Soldotna with “Shop Seward,” which will run this upcoming holiday weekend.

Soldotna Chamber of Commerce

Two days in, a program to incentivize shopping at Soldotna businesses is already very popular.

“I’m drowning in vouchers right now," said Shanon Davis, executive director for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber and city of Soldotna are sponsoring the program, called “Holding Our Own,” which rewards shoppers who spend $200 or more in Soldotna with two $50 vouchers to redeem at participating Soldotna businesses — currently, a list of 36 vendors.

Redoubt Reporter

The state released a second draft of its plan to divide $50 million in pandemic relief between sectors in Alaska's fishing industry.

It’s part of the federal CARES Act pandemic relief bill to help the fishing industry nationwide. Federal guidance suggests most of the funds go to seafood processors, a third to commercial fishermen and around 5 percent to sportfishing guides and lodges.

City of Kenai

The Kenai City Council approved a resolution last night that has three main functions relating to COVID-19 relief.

The first involves doubling the aid that Kenai commercial fishermen can receive, from $1,000 to $2,000. Applications for that relief program are available on the city of Kenai website and close Oct. 30. Permit holders who live within Kenai and who had at least $10,000 in landings on their 2019 permits are eligible to apply.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Commercial fishermen had a rough season this summer, for myriad reasons. As such, CARES funding from the Kenai Peninsula Borough and city of Kenai could be welcome relief.

However, while borough and city programs both target commercial fishermen, their terms of eligibility are very different. To receive funding from Kenai, you have to be a resident of the city but you can fish anywhere in Alaska. For borough funding, you don’t have to be a resident of the borough, you just have to do your fishing here.

City of Kenai

The Kenai Peninsula Borough recently closed its second phase of CARES grants to businesses and nonprofits located outside city limits. But the cities of Kenai and Soldotna are just getting started on their second rounds for small businesses, in addition to several new programs.

Starting today, eligible Kenai businesses and nonprofits can apply for grants that will be equal in amount to those offered by the borough. These grants will be larger than those offered in the first round, said City Manager Paul Ostrander.

Kenai Peninsula Borough

The application window for the second round of Kenai Peninsula Borough CARES funding for nonprofits, small businesses and commercial fishermen closed Friday. While the second round functioned in many ways like the first, there was a noticeable difference in the applicant pool.

“This round, we definitely had an uptick in those commercial fishers that wanted to submit applications, either online, or even coming in for assistance with the applications,” said Brenda Ahlberg, the borough’s community and fiscal projects manager.

Individual Soldotna households can apply for coronavirus relief funding this October.

It’s called the Economic Relief for Residents Program, and is the latest in a string of coronavirus relief packages offered by the city of Soldotna. The city is hoping to have the program open between Oct. 1 and Oct. 30, according to John Czarnezki, Soldotna’s director of economic development and planning.

Businesses and nonprofits hoping to mitigate the financial hit from the coronavirus pandemic got disappointing news last week — the $290 million Alaska CARES grant program has been “oversubscribed.” Meaning, the amount of grant requests still waiting review is greater than the amount of money left in the program.

Alaska CARES grants have been slow to get to the businesses and organizations struggling with the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Legal issues have been dismissed, processing problems are being addressed and on Thursday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed modifications to expand eligibility.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s CARES Act grant program closed for applications last Friday, with hundreds of businesses and nonprofits seeking aid.

The borough received 632 completed applications, with 40 being nonprofits. Borough community and fiscal projects manager Brenda Ahlberg says there were another 176 applications started but not finished—maybe because the applicant realized they didn’t qualify, or maybe they just forgot to hit the submit button.

CDC

 Friday is the deadline for nonprofits and businesses to apply for CARES Act grant funding through the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

The borough has made $15 million available in the first round of funding for nonprofits and businesses outside city limits for pandemic-related relief, whether or not they have previously received relief. The catch is that only expenses that haven’t been covered by other relief are eligible, and the borough will require proof of how the funds were spent.

Nonprofits and businesses inside Soldotna city limits can now apply for some coronavirus relief money through the city’s CARES Act grant program.

The city launched its first phase of business and nonprofit relief on Friday, making $2.75 million available for qualifying organizations, regardless of whether they’ve received other relief funding. The caveat is that the expenses they’re applying for help with can’t have been covered by any other relief funding they’ve received.

Last Friday, Kenai launched the second part of its relief program for small businesses, and this time, it includes commercial fishermen.

Applications for this round of coronavirus relief became available last Friday and don’t close until August 30. That’s in part because commercial fishermen are busy, well, fishing right now.

Elizabeth Earl

This year has been a rough one for tourism businesses everywhere, but especially in Alaska.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, very few out of state visitors are coming. Alaska relies heavily on them for its summer tourism season. There are only about 731,000 of us, while more than two million out of state tourists arrive every year, the majority of them by cruise ships. But without them, regions of the state are lobbying for those in-state tourists to come and salvage some of the season.   

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.

Like nearly every corner of the economy, commercial fishermen have had to adapt to the pandemic as Alaska heads into its busy salmon season. However, unlike other parts of the economy, commercial fishermen haven’t been eligible for all the federal aid available.

Until this week, a big chunk of fishermen’s payroll wasn’t eligible for help under the Payroll Protection Program, or PPP. That’s because many of them pay their crewmen with 1099s, as independent contractors. Until yesterday, they couldn’t use that to apply for the PPP. United Fishermen of Alaska executive director Frances Leach said that presented significant challenges for the fleet.

CDC

The Kenai Peninsula Borough and the cities are getting their plans in place for distributing CARES Act funding to help with the impact of the coronavirus, with the goal of getting it out before the summer’s over.

When the federal government passed the CARES Act for coronavirus economic relief, the state of Alaska received all of it. The state would then pass it along to municipalities. Kenai was the first city on the peninsula to get a plan on the books and is getting its first round of checks in the mail this week. Larry Persily, a consultant working with the city on its CARES Act grant program, said 186 individuals applied for the initial phase, for a total of just over $2 million. The city council set aside $3 million for its grant program to businesses and nonprofits, so there’s a little left over in case the council wants to do more with it in the future.

Through the CARES Act, municipalities are receiving millions of dollars to help recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But governments can only use the money for direct costs related to COVID-19, like paying emergency responders or buying protective equipment. In Alaska, the biggest economic hit to local governments has been lost revenue, primarily a drop in sales taxes, which isn't an eligible use of CARES money. Cities and boroughs can’t use most of the money they’re being given.

So, municipalities are coming up with ways to pass CARES Act money on to their communities. The city of Kenai has developed a grant program that is becoming a template for other municipalities in the state.

The Kenai City Council approved the program at its meeting June 3.

Money from the federal CARES Act, $562.5 million, is slated to go to local municipalities in Alaska to help with the COVID-19 public health crisis. That’s great news for local governments that are reeling from the unexpected blow to tax revenues caused by the slowdown of the economy.

But there is confusion about how, exactly, that money may be spent, leaving some cities concerned that they’ll face penalties or even have to return money in the future if they spend it incorrectly.

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander testified to the House Finance Committee on Thursday.

“I do think that it’s critical that these funds are distributed to the municipalities and the boroughs across the state,” Ostrander said. “That local control is critical. Communities know where that need is within their community, so I think that is very important.”