With CARES Act funding not yet distributed, Anchorage mayor expresses concern about local jobs

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - As Anchorage begins to ease into a slow open, officials said Friday that they are worried about aid to the municipality and to small businesses.

In a community update, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said the municipality has yet to receive CARES Act funding as leaders in Juneau are working on disbursing it. Because of the lack of funding, the municipality hasn’t yet filled vacancies or hired seasonal support, even though almost 100 employees have been moved to work in the local emergency operations center.

“If we were not to replace lost revenue, that would require massive layoffs in the municipality," Berkowitz said. "Not just our municipality but in municipalities across the country. And aside from the job loss, if we are laying off police officers and firefighters because that’s how significant it is, then our ability to fight against COVID is compromised.”

A recent survey by the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation shows that 16 percent of respondents believe their business may close permanently because of COVID-19, and 22 percent are uncertain if their business will remain open.

Jonathan White, a member of the Economic Resiliency Task Force and owner of SteamDot, said there is support available for local businesses through economic injury disaster loans and grants. but that the Small Business Administration is no longer accepting loan requests: The applications the SBA has received to date already outnumber the amount of support the group can provide.

Alaskan businesses, however, can also apply for the paycheck protection program loan. White said Alaska’s application rate is much lower than other states’.

“In eight weeks, a lot of the businesses helped by the PPP loan, if there is not more funding available for them and if the economy doesn’t come back to some semblance of normal, a lot of those businesses, many of those businesses, are going to be in the same boat,” White said.

There were six new cases of COVID-19 reported for the Anchorage area on Friday. Director of the Anchorage Health Department Natasha Pineda said the agency is investigating the cause for two of the cases. Three of the other cases were from a known contact, and one was travel acquired.

Berkowitz cautioned people to continue to wear masks and be socially distant, even as the state opens up.

“We need to stay disciplined as we move forward," Berkowitz said, "because even though we’ve seen a time of decreasing cases in the municipality which enabled us to move from the hunker down to the easing up, we have to remain vigilant."

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