$1.25 billion in federal CARES Act funding is available to support Alaskans during a time of great need. Although some has been approved for distribution, there remains a significant amount meant for but not yet available for Alaska’s businesses and local governments. For the sake of our economy and residents, we need action now! Getting these funds out to meet Alaska’s needs requires immediate action if Alaska has any chance of pulling out of this economic nosedive.
As leaders of the statewide business community and local governments, respectively, we want to step away from the politics and see accomplished what needs to be done. If ever an issue transcends politics, partisanship, or personality, this is it. The delay in getting CARES Act funds to local businesses and communities is hampering an effective economic recovery and threatens local decision making. Both entities need cash, immediately.
We applaud our congressional delegation for working across the aisle to pass the CARES Act, which allocated direct aid to the state, and contains a proposed distribution for both small businesses and local governments. The governor has put forth a plan to distribute these funds quickly. In a time like this, we are asking the committee responsible for approving the distribution of the relief funds to set aside differences and come to an agreement soon. If not this proposal, then what? Right now, real people with real jobs hang in the balance.
Alaska’s cities and boroughs are critical contributors to economic success and public health. These past two months have tested the capacity of Alaska’s local governments to the breaking point, requiring an extraordinary amount of effort to ensure sustained operations and service delivery. This has meant a wide range of unanticipated expenses — from payroll to personal protective equipment — as well as significant drops in revenue. Many communities are faced with how to keep the lights on during a global pandemic and economic crisis.
On the small business side, the situation is even worse. Many companies hit hard by the economic shutdown are within weeks if not days of shutting down for good. Of course, closed businesses means lost jobs, and with unemployment claims at all-time highs, time is of the essence to get help where it is needed most. We don’t know what the next few months hold. We do know that the longer there are needs unmet, the harder it is for Alaska to bounce back.
Despite this well-documented need and the quick action on the federal side, distribution of these critical funds is high-centered in the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee. Alaskans need both executive and legislative leadership and cooperation, and deserve fast action when choices and time are limited. Technical hurdles aside, we are living during a time of unprecedented crisis, and our leaders must come to an agreement. While the stalemate continues, businesses are going broke and local governments are drafting budgets with massive holes. To committee members we say, act now, act boldly and position Alaska for recovery, not a crisis of our own making.
Kati Capozzi is the President and CEO of the Alaska Chamber. The Chamber represents small and large businesses across the state with the goal to make Alaska a viable and competitive place to do business. Nils Andreassen is the Executive Director of the Alaska Municipal League (AML). AML is comprised of 165 incorporated cities and boroughs, and offers best practices, support services, and advocacy to its members.
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