The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic disaster has impacted all Alaskans. We have worked together to manage the re-opening of the economy and are slowly recovering, with more businesses resuming operations daily.
Many of these businesses were required to shut down due to no fault of their own and have incurred significant economic injury. To address this issue, through the federal CARES Act the State of Alaska received funds to provide small business relief.
Working with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development recently implemented the AK CARES Grant Program. AIDEA has contracted with Credit Union 1 to administer the grant program. These grants, which range between $5,000-$100,000, are available to small businesses based, licensed, and located in Alaska.
Small businesses and nonprofits that were operating when the state of emergency was declared on March 11, 2020; have experienced significant economic injury; have 50 or fewer employees on average; and were excluded, did not qualify, or were otherwise unable to obtain funding from a federal program under the CARES Act are eligible for these grants. Applications for the AK CARES grants are available through the Credit Union 1 website.
Grants differ from loans in that there is no repayment required except if funds are used inappropriately. These grant funds are to pay for eligible expenses that were incurred during the time between March 11, 2020 to eight weeks after the application date. Under this program, eligible expenses include operating expenses such as: payroll, rents, utilities, personal protective equipment, and other business-related expenses. More detail is available on the AK CARES Grant website.
The AK CARES program is a huge step in the right direction for Alaska’s economy. Thousands of small businesses that received no assistance and were potentially going under will now benefit from these funds. These grants are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Understanding that those in rural areas may have connectivity issues, the program has set aside up to 20% of $290 million that is allocated for this program for rural small business. I encourage businesses to apply if they meet the eligibility requirements.
The Alaska Regional Development Organizations and the Small Business Development Center are working with us and will provide technical assistance to small businesses that may need help understanding the program or applying for the grant. Their contact information is available on our website and I encourage you to contact them for more information to help move through the process quickly.
Gov. Dunleavy also allocated $568 million of the CARES Act funds to Alaskan communities. These funds are available to communities to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of June 4, we have funded 58 communities with over $58 million to stimulate the economy. Communities can implement grant programs under the CARES Act guidance to assist their residents and small businesses as well. I urge you to contact your community to see if there are other local options available to help your business through this difficult time.
Julie Anderson is the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development.