Revive Alaska remains quiet about finances amid federal investigation

MOA also refuses to provide documentation regarding nonprofit’s use of funds
A local nonprofit has been under federal investigation for how it spent $750,000, MOA also refuses to provide documentation regarding nonprofit’s use of funds
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 6:48 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A local nonprofit that has been under federal investigation for how it spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grant money remains silent about the group’s finances.

Revive Alaska Community Services (RACS) was awarded a $750,000 American Rescue Plan Act grant from the Municipality of Anchorage in December 2021. The rescue plan, or ARPA, is a federal COVID-19 relief program designed to help revitalize small businesses and nonprofit groups.

In the fall of 2021, RACS’s president, Prince Nwankudu, told Anchorage Assembly members the grant would go towards repairing a large barn-like structure in South Anchorage, which the nonprofit was using as a makeshift food pantry.

But, when Revive received the money, it tore the barn down, saying it was beyond repair, and used part of the funds to purchase a church on MacInnes Street in Midtown Anchorage instead.

“This place is under mortgage,” Nwankudu said. “We put down one hundred and something thousand, it is less than $750,000.”

Without Anchorage Assembly members’ approval, someone in Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration added language in RACS’s grant contract to allow the group the option of relocating. Alaska’s News Source began investigating this issue last November, shortly before Nwankudu was interviewed at the new church.

“Our budget, our finances are open,” Nwankudu said. “We do 990 (a federal IRS form filed by nonprofits) every year, we did 990 last year. Anybody can go and look at our 990, we got the money last year.”

But since then, Nwankudu has declined to provide any IRS 990 forms or additional financial documents showing how that $750,000 was spent. RACS also hasn’t shown any proof that the money went toward serving people in need. However, the Municipality of Anchorage stated it did have that information.

In an email in August 2022, a city employee emailed former Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance announcing Revive Alaska has been “compliant with all their reporting” since receiving ARPA funds.

“Revive has provided their food pantry resources, i.e. details of who is being served, times the pantry is open, what items are available and how often they purchase goods for their pantry.” The email goes on to state. “Revive have submitted all their quarterly reports and notified our contractor with documentation when funds were matched.”

But Alaska’s News Source found that wasn’t verified by the grant’s contractor. The city contracted with Ken Miller’s company, Denali FSP, to manage ARPA grants. In his email from February 2023, Miller stated, “I have not followed up with proof of match due to nature of potential Federal investigations.”

Nevertheless, in an email last July, Nwankudu assured the Assembly that Revive had the money.

“We have raised the matching fundraising commitments exceeding $750k in value,” he wrote.

Since RACS has not provided reporters with any documentation, Alaska’s News Source also began requesting that information from the municipality beginning last November. Despite multiple public records requests, and four letters from attorneys, Alaska’s News Source still have not received that information.

According to Revive’s grant contract, it’s required to use the money to open a food pantry in South Anchorage by the end of 2023. RACS says it will build a multimillion-dollar facility, which it calls “The Life Center.” RACS hired a firm to complete drawings of the proposed facility, which is slated to cost between $3 million to $5 million to complete.

“The money for that project is designated for that project,” Nwankudu said. ”And that project is going to be finished by the end of December 2023, and we’re working on it to finish it at that time.”

So far, an Anchorage municipal website that tracks building permits shows one permit was pulled this month to possibly begin construction on The Life Center. However, recent visits to the location show no signs of construction activity. Last November, Nwankudu promised to begin in 2023.

“By spring next year (2023), we are going to kick off breaking ground on the project for The Life Center for which the $750,000 was given to us,” he said then.

RACS also sold its church in May 2023. There is no word on whether it will relocate the temporary food pantry that was operating there. RACS also paid back taxes owed on one separate vacant property that was headed to foreclosure just days after the sale of the church closed.

Alaska’s News Source tried contacting Nwankudu for a comment but was unsuccessful.