State awards $46 million in relief funding to Alaska businesses

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Over 300 Alaska businesses have received Federal relief funding from the state.

    The AK-ARPA, or American Rescue Plan Act program, was started when the legislature approved $90 million towards a tourism and business relief grant program. To be eligible, businesses had to demonstrate a 50 percent or greater loss in net income between 2019 and 2020.

    To date, about 46 million in funding has been distributed to 363 businesses in the state. Alaska Director of International Trade development, Keith Comstock, says the funding went to leisure businesses.

    "We got requests for relief from almost all sectors of the Alaska economy, but our top three grant awardees by industry types were specifically related to tourism and so we collected industry codes and so that you know, amusement and or recreation industry, so like guides, hotels and lodging, gift shops and tourism-based retail businesses, those were our largest group of awards."

    Comstock says though there are still outstanding needs for businesses.

    "It's great to see that additional $46 million are reaching Alaska's businesses, with that said, despite many federal, state, and local grant programs being available over the last couple years, the outstanding need for relief and Alaska still exceeds the amount of funding available through this program and the other programs and so, we're committed to making sure that all the available funds that are available get out the last the businesses, however, we're going to get through all the applications still under review before determining or announcing next steps for the remaining funds," he said.

    The state worked with the Juneau Economic Development Council to administer the program.

    "We saw many businesses, especially in tourism, which is not a surprise that those businesses are over-represented in this group because many businesses had very, very little revenue in 2020 Compared to 2019," said JEDC director Brian Holst. "One thing I really appreciate about this program is that there have been assistance programs in the past, some federal programs, some state programs and in making these awards, those programs are also taken into consideration. So this money really went to businesses that, for whatever reason, they either have missed that assistance or that assistance was inadequate to keep their businesses going."

    Holst says the funding makes a big difference, but says they will continue to struggle though as the pandemic continues..

    "We've talked a lot of businesses, many of which I like to say 99% of which are super grateful for the state for making these funds available because it makes a huge difference in whether their business operates," he said. "And it's really been intensified, with this Omicron, Delta, 2021 and it looks like this is we're not out of the woods yet. Businesses are really struggling to make ends meet and this program targeted towards those that with the biggest negative impact is really helping these businesses stay afloat and have another chance at it, especially in the tourism area."

    The program deadline was in October. Over 1000 businesses in the state applied, Holst said there are some applications still under review. After review, next steps will be determined for the remaining funds.

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