State small business coronavirus grants expanded to include those that took small federal loans

Published: Jun. 17, 2020 at 5:44 PM AKDT
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The Alaska Department of Commerce has announced that a

will be expanded to include businesses that have already taken small federal loans.

Commissioner Julie Anderson of the Commerce Department said last week that the $290 million small business grant program

that had accepted federal loans during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Wednesday, Anderson said the department had found a way to change eligibility requirements, following advice from the Department of Law.

Small Alaska businesses that received $5,000 or less in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) funds and 501(c)(6) nonprofit organizations will become eligible for the State’s grant program; as long as they were based, licensed, and located in Alaska when the public health disaster emergency was declared on March 11, 2020 and have 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees.

Small business owners can also return federal loans in favor of state grants that pay between $5,000 and $100,000, Anderson said. Business owners that have received municipal loans are also available for state grants.

The Commerce Department announced that the change in policy will be implemented in the next few days and an effective date will be announced soon. Small businesses that are now eligible for grants are encouraged

Bill Milks, an assistant attorney general with the Department of Law, said that the agency had flexibility to change the eligibility requirements for small businesses after some lawmakers had commented during debate over implementing a $5,000-federal loan limit.

The Legislature’s top attorney Megan Wallace said changing the program’s eligibility without legislators changing the law could open the up the possibility of a lawsuit.

Small business owners from across Alaska called into a House Finance Committee to give testimony about their struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some business owners said the change would make a big difference while others said it wouldn't be enough.

Many callers to the committee were

who say they are on the brink and need additional financial help immediately.

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