Normally, July in Alaska is a time of frenetic activity and huge masses of visitors exploring the natural beauty of the state and taking advantage of our bountiful salmon runs. Unfortunately, this year is very much not a normal one. With the remaining potential cruise ships canceling their last late summer offerings, travel numbers at record lows, and COVID-19 numbers rising statewide, it’s become clear that Alaskans are in for a long haul when it comes to getting our economy and our lives back to normal.
To get a better feel for how businesses in the state were doing, the Alaska SBDC recently conducted a quick one-week survey of over 200 businesses asking them, among other things, to give us feedback on how they were doing and what they needed. The responses we received from business owners were heartbreaking but we also heard messages of resilience and hope. Alaskans are tough people and even the ones who were in the direst straits told us that they would continue to fight as long as they could.
On the bright side, to date in Alaska, the SBA has deployed over $1.2 billion dollars to 11,169 businesses through its PPP loan program and around $390 million dollars in EIDL and EIDL Emergency Advance funding to 9,900 businesses. This $1.6 billion in funding has gone a long way to helping businesses across the state stay open and stay alive in these unbelievably difficult times. Additionally, the state’s Alaska CARES business grant program is in the process of deploying $280 million to eligible businesses and local governments are launching dozens of their own business support programs using part of the $568 million they received through the federal CARES Act.
Although those funds have been crucial in helping keep businesses going, if the pandemic continues to extend through the end of the year as is looking increasingly likely, Alaska’s businesses are going to continue to need assistance in the future. The Alaska SBDC was glad to see that Congress extended the PPP program for several more months to give Alaskan businesses a chance to access the over $130 billion left in the program, especially considering the new changes that make the program friendlier to commercial fishing businesses.
Equally, if not even more important, is supporting Alaskan businesses through buy-local efforts. This is why I am pleased to announce the relaunch of the BuyAlaska program which you can read more about in this newsletter. This initiative will help to connect people with Alaskan owned businesses in their community and will showcase all the ways Alaskans can support those businesses by buying “Local First”.
As always, the Alaska SBDC is here to help you and your businesses in any way that we can. If you have any ideas on what we can do to help, please don’t hesitate to contact me and let me know.