Assembly to vote on additional $10 million for small business relief

The Anchorage Assembly gathers on Aug. 12, 2020, for a continued meeting.
The Anchorage Assembly gathers on Aug. 12, 2020, for a continued meeting.(KTUU)
Published: Oct. 3, 2020 at 6:15 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Just under 500 small businesses in Anchorage are set to receive $10,000 grants as a result of the Municipality’s Small Business Relief Program. The full list of recipients includes businesses from ceramic shops to construction companies, but not every business that applied was able to receive a grant.

“That application period closed in mid September,” said Anchorage Chief of Staff Jason Bockenstedt. “And based on the number of applicants that we received, we knew we were going to be oversubscribed.”

Bockenstedt said that there is a little under twice as many businesses that did not receive grants compared to those that did. It’s not because they were ineligible, but because there wasn’t enough in the program’s $5 million bucket to go around. He put the number in perspective by gauging how much money the remaining grants would be worth.

“Once we get through, kind of, the verification, it’ll be roughly close to about $10 million,” he said.

And $10 million is exactly the amount that Assembly members and the administration are proposing adding to the program.

“We left a contingency fund of about $14 million,” said Assembly Vice Chair Austin Quinn-Davidson, referring to the city’s CARES Act funds. “And the idea was, ‘let’s see, where we need to add money,’ and it’s been pretty apparent to me that we need to add money for small businesses.”

Quinn-Davidson is one of three Assembly members, along with South Anchorage member Suzanne LaFrance and East Anchorage member Forrest Dunbar, sponsoring a proposal to increase the size of the fund. Bockenstedt said if that proposal is approved at the next Assembly meeting, they would likely be able to provide grants to the remaining businesses that applied during the second round.

“I think what we want to try to do is go through the wait-listed folks and ensure that they all receive the grants through this $10 million,” he said.

He added the process would likely be much quicker because the program itself wouldn’t change and the applications are all in, but Quinn-Davidson mentioned there is one change they’d like to see: allowing franchises to apply as well.

“We got a fair amount of feedback from folks who own small businesses, many of them sole proprietors who are part of a franchise but don’t necessarily have that support from outside that a lot of franchises do,” she said.

While the Assembly can vote to include that change in the appropriation for the program, Bockenstedt warned it would slow down the process of distributing the grants, and added that the $14 million relief program for the tourism and hospitality industries includes franchises, though that program is not quite finalized.

“I believe that we are in the process of finalizing the grant agreement with both [the Alaska Hospitality Retailers Association and the Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant, and Retailers Association],” he said. “And as soon as that is done, we will be sending the money out to them so that they can start distributing it to eligible businesses within that program.”

The Assembly is set to vote on this proposal at their next meeting on October 13th.

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