economy

To require 14 days of quarantine or not to require 14 days of quarantine — that is the question state officials might answer today. While many of the state’s COVID-19 health mandates have been rolled back as Alaska re-opens for business, the mandate requiring arrivals to the state to self-isolate for two weeks is in effect until June 2. That requirement is particularly challenging for Alaska’s tourism industry.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy in a virtual town hall Thursday, said state officials are trying to balance public health with easing impacts to the economy.

“We’re working on some protocols to be able to try to have some outside folks come to Alaska to help with the very business that we’re talking about today that are seasonal, that are tourist-related, fishing-related, etc. We’re going to do our best to this thread this needle where we keep Alaskans safe but also try to get our economy back up off its knees,” Dunleavy said.


 

AK LNG

Since the state announced Nikiski as the chosen site for its liquefied natural gas plant project about six years ago, Kenai Peninsula residents have had an ear to the ground for developments. The project would use an 807-mile pipeline from the North Slope to deliver natural gas to a plant in Nikiski, where it would be liquefied and shipped out to international markets, all for a price tag of about $45 billion.

Since 2017, the state has been heading up the project alone through the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation. The project partners, including ConocoPhillips, BP and ExxonMobil, shied away from it after a number of international LNG plants came online, pushing down prices and making Alaska’s project too expensive to be competitive. But the state has pressed on, gathering permits and information. On Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the state the green light to build and operate the project.

Now it’s just a matter of how to pay for it. This is the last year the state is going to go it alone —it’s either find other sponsors or sponsors or sell the assets.

Now that the Alaska Legislature and governor have come to an agreement about how federal COVID-19 relief funds will be distributed on the Kenai Peninsula, the final details are being worked out to get that money passed through to communities.

Just under $290 million will be made available to small businesses and certain nonprofit organizations through Alaska CARES grants. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority will be the umbrella organization overseeing the grant program and Credit Union One was selected to be the financial institution processing applications and making payments. 

The Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District is tasked with public outreach about how the program will work.

“I know folks have been kind of frustrated over the last couple of months about what was going on and when moneies will become available,” said Tim Dillon, executive director of KPEDD. “For the $290 million that will be out there for small business relief, that is statewide and it’s all in grants. There’s no loan with the potential of it being a grant, it is a straight grant right from the beginning. So we’ve been working through the polices and procedures. And everybody had their ideas on what they thought should happen. And the bottom line was there was a variety of us that said, 'We need to get money and we need to get it to our small businesses and we've got to get it to them ASAP without nine million strings attached to it.'”

Phase II of the state of Alaska's plan to scale back COVID-19 restrictions goes into effect today. If you want to go out and have a beer to celebrate or watch a movie at a theater, that is now allowed.

Not all businesses are choosing to participate but there are some new options on the central Kenai Peninsula.

Bars are allowed to open to 25 percent capacity. The Vagabond Inn on K-Beach Road plans to be open until 11 p.m. or midnight, depending on patronage.

"Even though the bar was closed, we had a lot of people call and come up and try to patronize, (want to) come in and have a drink. I don't know if they weren't aware of the situation or not. But a lot of people would like to get back in here. And I think it's just the social aspect, people are missing that," said owner George Bowen.

Bowen is excited to get the bar back open and bring his staff back to work. The Vagabond includes a liquor store, which stayed open during the shutdown, but Bowen says sales have been down about 70 percent.


Alaska businesses and workers struggling with impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic might soon have help on the horizon. Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced Thursday a variety of efforts to help support Alaska’s economy and workers.

“This is a government-induced situation because of the health issue and we believe that government needs to be involved in this particular case. This is not something that occurred because it was a bad business deal or one sector was not doing well. This is widespread across all sectors and, so, we are going to do everything we can to stabilize the economy,” Dunleavy said.

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