It’s been a good month for the Alaska Black Caucus. The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday awarded the newly restarted group a $1.154 million no-bid award to do outreach to the community regarding the Covid-19 vaccine availability.
That’s on top of an earlier award of $437,500 in federal relief fund to help the group purchase a building for its nonprofit activities. Together, that’s nearly $1.6 million to the fledgling organization.
The Alaska Black Caucus is arguably a surrogate for the Alaska Democratic Party. Its President Celeste Hodge Growden signed the recall petition against Gov. Mike Dunleavy, and has been a political activist for a long time, working on various campaigns for Democrats and as a legislative aide to Bettye Davis. She was an aide to Sen. Mark Begich and worked in his office when he was mayor of Anchorage as his Equal Opportunity Office director.
It’s also a group that is now a big beneficiary of Covid-19 relief funds that could have gone to help struggling businesses pay their property taxes.
The $1.1 million appropriation has no deliverables except to reach out to the community to spread the word about how to get a Covid-19 vaccination. This, at a time when everyone who wants a vaccination has gotten one. About 42 percent of Alaskans have been vaccinated, and nearly 70 percent of Anchorage residents over the age of 65 have been vaccinated. Black Alaskans lag in getting the vaccine, however, but the data is not especially good in this department.
The grant agreement with ABC will support “community outreach and education, data collection and analysis, vaccination clinics, and other services related to COVID-19 vaccine, testing, and mitigation efforts. The purpose of the program is to: Improve efforts and increase access to COVID-19 testing in the community; Build capacity to increase access to COVID-19 vaccine in the community; Implement strategies that decrease health inequities, as well as other COVID-19 related recovery and prevention strategies.” Most certainly it is also to do political work.
The award fulfills the wishes of Assemblyman Felix Rivera who last year stated that the CARES Act funds had to be used to address racial inequality or they would not receive his vote.
Although there appear to be no deliverables in the grant, the group has put together a website with information about vaccines. The website states that the ABC strongly recommends people get the vaccine.
Other groups receiving funds included the Alaska Literacy Program, for similar vaguely defined services.
For the $238,937 sole source grant, the ALP will “support work within English Language Learners communities and one-on-one with individuals to increase trust of the COVID-19 vaccine, assist with access to the vaccination, and provide access to accurate COVID-19 health information. The grant agreement amount is for $238,937 for the period of July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022.”
The Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center also received a grant, for $2,447,984. The agreement with the Municipality is that the group will do staff training, facility renovation, equipment, technology upgrades, and client engagement “to improve COVID-19 vaccine, testing, and mitigation efforts.” The grant extends from March 15 through June 30, 2022.
Another group receiving a sole source grant is the Conquer COVID Coalition, for a total of $1,260,000 for services related to COVID-19 testing and vaccination access for the Municipality of Anchorage Health Department. This grant is to pay for public relations campaigns to increase testing and vaccination.
The Conquer COVID Coalition is made up of a number of businesses and nonprofits based in Anchorage, everything from the Downtown Partnership to the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, and GCI to the Lucky Wishbone restaurant.
United Way of Anchorage also received a grant for $3,682,417 for services related to testing and vaccination access.