Emergency assistance fund set up for Anchorage residents in need

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As thousands of Alaskans lose jobs or see their paychecks shrink amid the coronavirus pandemic, United Way of Anchorage has set up a way for the public to help.

The United Way of Anchorage’s website has a portal where the public can make donations to what’s called the ANCHORAGE CARES COVID-19 Response Fund. They can also text ANCcares to 41444 to contribute. All donations will go to agencies helping with housing assistance, food and child care, among other urgent needs.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented amount of financial hardship by people being laid off,” said Michele Brown, president of United Way of Anchorage.

“We already know that Anchorage has roughly 17,000 to 18,000 households walking a financial tightrope. Anyone who loses a job that doesn’t have a financial cushion to get them through what could be a prolonged and very difficult period is vulnerable,” Brown said.

Even when the pandemic ends and people go back to work, many will need assistance because they may have accumulated a mountain of debt that could be difficult to surmount, she noted.

Besides the unemployed, hourly or low-wage workers are also being hit hard because with schools closed, children are at home. To keep their jobs, they may need to dip into savings or borrow funds to pay for child care, an unexpected cost that might be outside of their budget.

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With new COVID-19 restrictions on People Mover buses, limiting the number of riders to nine, people are finding it’s taking longer to get to jobs or to grocery stores, Brown said.

Rental assistance, food, child care and transportation are the most urgent needs being expressed by people calling Alaska 211, United Way’s statewide helpline, according to Brown.

Alaska 211 has extended its hours, operating seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Children’s Lunchbox, a program of Bean’s Cafe, is expanding its meal service to children during the pandemic.

The program is serving Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the parking lots of the Spenard and Fairview Recreation Centers. It’s a drive-thru service and children must be present in the vehicle to get the food. Two suppers will be provided for each child present, one for the day of service and one for the next day.

Food boxes will also be distributed while supplies last, according to The Children’s Lunchbox staff. More details are available on the program’s Facebook page.

Anchorage currently has an estimated 21,000 children who are food insecure, said Lisa Sauder, executive director of Bean’s Cafe.

Paula Dobbyn

Paula Dobbyn is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on homelessness. She's a veteran Alaska journalist who has reported for the Anchorage Daily News, KTUU and the Alaska Public Radio Network. Contact her at