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Donations pour in for Alaskans in need during coronavirus shutdown

Downtown Anchorage was quiet as people stayed away during the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, March 22, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)

With thousands of Alaskans suddenly out of work due to the coronavirus shutdown, large donations are pouring in for those in need.

The United Way of Anchorage has raised over $35,000 since Thursday, when it launched its Anchorage Cares COVID-19 response fund, and an anonymous donor has pledged another $25,000, said spokesman Jason Grenn.

One hundred percent of the funds have gone or will go to people getting hit hardest by the virus’s economic fallout, he said. The bulk of the money is aimed at preventing people from losing their housing and making sure basic needs are met.

“Anchorage’s response has been rapid and robust,” said Cassandra Stalzer, vice president of philanthropy.

Wells Fargo has committed to making a sizable contribution this week, Grenn said.

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United Way of Anchorage runs Alaska 2-1-1, a statewide hotline that steers callers to needed information and resources. It’s been flooded in recent days.

Most people are asking how to sign up for unemployment insurance or where they can get food. They’re also wondering about health insurance, childcare assistance and any other help that’s available.

“One day last week they received 466 calls – a significant increase for a single day, more than any received in a day after the November 2018 earthquake,” Grenn said.

Many people who have never used social services are calling in, needing funds to cover April rent, he said.

“Our main priority is to distribute funds quickly and to those who have the greatest need.”

The phone lines at Alaska 2-1-1 are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. Dial 2-1-1 or 1-800-478-2221, or email Alaska211@ak.org.

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