The May 4, 2020, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy livestream press briefing homepage is seen here. (Screenshot)

The May 4, 2020, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy livestream press briefing homepage is seen here. (Screenshot)

Officials discuss CARES spending

State commissioners spoke Monday on how $1.5 billion in federal funding would be spent.

State commissioners spoke Monday on how the $1.5 billion in federal funding made available through the CARES Act would be spent.

During a press conference with Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the executive director of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation as well as the commissioners of the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development and the Department of Transportation spoke about the CARES Act funding that has been allocated to their departments by the governor and how that money will be used.

The funds are being distributed by the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, which is meeting on Wednesday to make a final decision on Dunleavy’s proposals for allocation.

Public Safety

Amanda Price, the commissioner of DPS, said her department will be responsible for the distribution of about $3.6 million to local law enforcement agencies and support services within the criminal justice system.

“As we all know our first responders continue to engage with the public and are at a high risk, second to health care workers, for coming in contact with the virus,” Price said. “We have to make sure that our rural workforce is protected. We have made a shift and dramatic change in the way we provide service and the way we respond to the requests for services that come statewide to the department of public safety.”

Of the $3.6 million, Price said that $1 million is set aside specifically for rural law enforcement agencies in the state, and another $1 million is to be used by other agencies within the criminal justice system, including the Department of Corrections, the Division of Juvenile Justice, the Alaska Court System and the Department of Law.

The remainder will be used primarily to cover overtime costs and to purchase additional protective and sanitation equipment for both state troopers and municipal law enforcement agencies.

Municipalities and small businesses

Julie Anderson, the commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, said that about $568 million has been designated specifically for direct relief to municipalities across Alaska. This money, Anderson said, is to be used for “necessary expenditures” incurred during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The amounts to be given to each municipality will be determined by factoring in both population size and economic activity and will be distributed through the Division of Community and Regional Affairs’ Community Assistance Program.

Municipalities must first issue a letter to the state saying that they plan to abide by the guidelines set out by the U.S. Department of Treasury regarding the use of these funds, Anderson said. Upon receiving this compliance letter, the state will distribute 60% of the funds requested. After a month, the municipality will be required to submit an expenditure report for the funds, and once 80% of the initial funds have been spent, the remainder will be distributed.

“The intent of this is to ensure the funds are used as appropriate and distributed and fully accounted for,” Anderson said. “I think it’s important to note that all of us are accountable to the U.S. Treasury to ensure that the funds we receive are used as intended.”

In addition to the $568 meant for municipalities, Anderson said her department will be responsible for the distribution of about $200 million in small business relief funds. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority recently approved an emergency loan program, Anderson said, that will use these funds and distribute them to small businesses in Alaska that did not receive assistance either through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program or the Emergency Disaster Loan Program.

Finally, $750,000 will be distributed to Alaska’s regional development organizations, which include the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District.

“I get calls every day from businesses and individuals that are struggling, and it is my intent to have all the systems in place so that the moment we have the approval to disburse these funds, we are ready to go into action,” Anderson said.

Transportation

John MacKinnon, commissioner of the Department of Transportation, said significant financial relief is on the way for Alaska’s airports and Marine Highway System.

The Federal Aviation Administration already approved $125 million for Alaska’s airports, MacKinnon said.

Of that money, $42 million went directly to regional airports that are not owned by the state.

Another $33 million was designated for the two international airports in Anchorage and Fairbanks, which operate as separate entities and are also not owned by the state.

The state owns and operates 237 rural airports, MacKinnon said, for which the remaining $49 million is allocated. These airport funds are being used primarily as a cushion for the loss of revenue in this fiscal year.

The Federal Transit Authority has designated $10 million of the current CARES Act funding to be distributed to Alaska’s 13 public transit agencies and will be used primarily to replace the salaries of workers who have been displaced or have lost hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, $10 million has been allocated to the Alaska Marine Highway System for lost wages. MacKinnon said that AHMS will be running several ferries beginning in June with increased personnel to address enhanced sanitation requirements.

No money has been designated for Alaska’s highway system, but MacKinnon said he is working to address that.

“I’m in regular contact with Washington, D.C., and I know they’re working on it,” MacKinnon said. “Alaska’s transportation infrastructure is critical to the economy and its imperative that it be maintained and improved.”

When it comes to road construction in the state, MacKinnon said they are currently planning to advertise the 2020 construction season “as scheduled.”

Housing and homelessness

Bryan Butcher, executive director for the Alaska Housing and Finance Corporation, said $10 million dollars will be going directly to AHFC as part of the CARES Act. The housing corporation operates all of Alaska’s public housing and housing voucher programs and also handles about 1/4 of the mortgages in the state, Butcher said, and those services have continued in the wake of the pandemic.

The Alaska Legislature recently passed a moratorium on rental evictions and mortgage foreclosures through June for anyone who has experienced economic hardship due to COVID-19. Butcher said people should work individually with their landlords or mortgage brokers to determine how payments can eventually be made.

Butcher said that, because of the additional funding for AHFC, he doesn’t anticipate an increase in homelessness during the pandemic, and his organization is developing a plan moving forward that will focus on homelessness prevention.

“We continue to work to make sure that people are still able to move into homes,” Butcher said. “And those are vital activities that we’ve continued even through this crisis.”

More in News

Council member James Baisden speaks in favor of an amendment to the City of Kenai’s budget that would add funds for construction of a veteran’s memorial column in the Kenai Cemetery during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai budget amendment allocates funds for veterans’ columbarium in cemetery expansion

A columbarium is an aboveground structure that houses cremated remains

Council member Alex Douthit speaks in favor of an amendment to the CIty of Kenai’s budget that would reduce funds allocated to the Storefront and Streetscape Improvement Program during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Funding reduced for City of Kenai’s storefront improvement grant program

Just over a year after the City of Kenai established its Storefront… Continue reading

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Hilcorp only bidder in Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sale

8 million acres were available for bidding in the sale, spread across Cook Inlet and the Alaska Peninsula region

Council member Phil Daniel speaks during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
City of Kenai approves budget

A draft of the document says that the city expects to bring in around $19.5 million in the next year, and spend $20.2 million

A sockeye salmon rests atop a cooler at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
A sockeye salmon rests atop a cooler at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kasilof River personal use setnet opening delayed

Low counts for Kenai River early-run king salmon motivate restriction

Ben Meyer, environmental scientist and water quality coordinator for the Kenai Watershed Forum, teaches children about young salmon freshly pulled from the Kenai River during the Kenai River Fair at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River Fair debuts with array of activities and education

Previously called the Kenai River Festival, the newly refocused fair featured booths and activities dedicated to education about the outdoors, wildlife and ecosystems

A sign welcomes visitors on July 7, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward Pride Alliance rallies after bomb threat displaces drag story hour

The event was able to continue after a delay and a fundraising effort has brought in more than $13,000

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
City of Kenai Public Works Director Scott Curtain; City of Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel; Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche; Sen. Lisa Murkowski; Col. Jeffrey Palazzini; Elaina Spraker; Adam Trombley; and Kenai City Manager Terry Eubank cut the ribbon to celebrate the start of work on the Kenai River Bluff Stabilization Project on the bluff above the Kenai River in Kenai on Monday.
‘The future is bright for the City of Kenai’

Kenai celebrates start of bluff stabilization project after developing for 40 years

A Kenai Peninsula Food Bank truck in the Food Bank parking lot on Aug. 4, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Peninsula Food Bank’s Spring Festival set for Friday

The event will feature a wide swath of vendors, including lots of nonprofits, who will be sharing information about their services

Most Read