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Better late than never, Assembly to let $10 million more for small businesses


Three Assembly members on Friday proposed an additional $10 million in CARES Act funds to help Anchorage’s small businesses. It’s a compromise, because earlier this week some on the Assembly said they had given enough to businesses. They took heat for their remarks.

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In a joint press release by members Forrest Dunbar, Suzanne LaFrance, and Austin Quinn-Davidson, the Assembly members have changed their positions by 180 degrees in response to intense feedback from small business owners.

The business community has pleaded with the Assembly for months, during the Mayor’s enforced shutdown, to disperse more monies from the CARES Act’s small business stabilization program. Just this week the Red Chair Cafe said it will be closing it doors this month, and many will follow, a result of the strict business closures enforced by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz.

Over the past several months, many Anchorage community members have descended upon the Loussac Public Library, where the Assembly meets, to express their discontent and frustration with both the Assembly and Berkowitz Administration.

The Assembly’s refusal to allow in-person public testimony during some of the most controversial votes led to several highly attended protests outside the Chambers. Many have taken to social media to express their displeasure as well.

Now that people are allowed inside the chambers, the Assembly is beginning to get an earful, on the record.

Facebook groups, such as Save Anchorage and Open Alaska, have grown in size and popularity, providing an outlet to express anger, disappointment, and the desire for change.

The group Save Anchorage has gotten the attention of Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who called citizens involved in it a fake “Astroturf” group, while explaining his conspiracy theory regarding the group’s motivations. 

The Assembly had earlier allocated just $6 million, out of the $156,713,566.04 given in CARES Act monies, to fund the small businesses and nonprofit relief program. Tourism and hospitality programs, and some nonprofits received a separate allocation.

Because the Assembly issued so little initially, it prompted the Municipality to hold a lottery to see which businesses and nonprofits would receive money, causing another uproar, as many businesses were passed over for aid.

According to Assembly member Suzanne LaFrance, now is the time to add more funds to the small business stabilization program.

“We need to get more funds in the hands of small business owners, now. Our constituents are hurting. Passing this resolution could keep hundreds of businesses alive. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this appropriation,” LaFrance said.

LaFrance was the only Assembly member quoted in the joint press release. Closely aligned with the leftwing caucus that runs the Anchorage Assembly, she has been all but silent in recent meetings, as she is running for House District 28 as the Democrats’ nominee.

This announcement comes just days after Assembly Members Jamie Allard and Crystal Kennedy proposed an amendment to AO 2020-99, in which they included $17.45 million in additional small business and nonprofit relief, including monies for franchise businesses.

Allard and Kennedy had proposed removing over $15 million from previously proposed projects, such as the Girdwood Health Center, and local trail building, but their motion was voted down by the liberal majority of the Assembly. 

Coincidentally, today’s proposal put forth by Dunbar, LaFrance, and Quinn-Davidson contains nearly identical language from the Allard/Kennedy amendment proposed at the Sept. 29 Assembly meeting, but includes roughly $7.5 million less in proposed funding.

It’s nearly a sure bet the Dunbar/LaFrance/Quinn-Davidson proposal will pass at the next Assembly meeting. But critics asked why the three didn’t work with the amendment offered by Allard/Kennedy. The answer is likely that the two from Eagle River are not part of the liberal majority.

Perhaps the change of heart on the Assembly is political cover for LeFrance, as she runs for Alaska State House in District 28. Several liberal members show up on the campaign finance reports of LeFrance, as major donors to her quest for higher office.

The Assembly plans to vote on the proposal at the Oct. 13 meeting.

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  1. If the Assembly refuses to help Anchorage small businesses, where and how are they going to get the property and inventory taxes from when we close our doors permanently?

  2. What a crock. Keep funds away from people and businesses who pay into the tax base creating more homeless but fund hotels for people who Have been chronically homeless for years and contribute nothing. What a joke this assembly and mayor are. Shame on them. They should all be removed.

  3. I hear arms twisting and screams from the bowels of hell as this assembly grovels like Gollum trying to keep hold of their precious. Keep up the pressure and send those who have shown such contempt for their Constituents packing. Same analogy for the Legislature clutching the stolen PFD.

  4. How generous and magnanimous of the Assembly to release monies as they were intended….after 4 1/2 months. Sad.

  5. They must have a secret plan on how to keep the monies. I thought I read they need to give back the funds if they are not used. Have they run out of their buddies non-profits to give the funds to?

  6. If this land barron Berkowitz was really about lives saved, what is his rationale was behind stopping the Bragaw Road extension?
    How many may have been saved by being able to reach the hospital minutes sooner.

  7. The program, and the rules have favored certain businesses over others. It’s a disgrace! I have a five figure bill due to MOA for inventory tax ( never adjusted for the amount of time we were shut down and unable to sell to
    Our customers..)..though this group let the big box stores go merrily on their way. Dishonest crap!

  8. Maybe time for a property tax revolt by all the businesses that were forced to NOT make a living over the last six months. Where do our local officials think the money comes from to pay property taxes, inventory taxes etc.? I’m sure there is plenty of tax revenue from pot shops and liquor stores to make up the difference.

  9. No doubt Ms. LaFrance is the spokesperson so she can bask in the warmth of her “compassion” as the election season goes forward. Anyone who is deceived by such shenanigans hasn’t been paying attention.

  10. “No doubt Ms. LaFrance is the spokesperson so she can bask in the warmth of her “compassion” as the election season goes forward. Anyone who is deceived by such shenanigans hasn’t been paying attention.”
    No kidding. Wrote twice to Ms. LaFrance back in June asking that a critical review of the Mayor’s actions be taken before extending his powers to shutdown the economy. Response? Crickets.
    …and now she pretends to be interested in her district and businesses? No way, nohow. Vote for Kaufman.

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