Alaska’s small tourism business owners are hurting, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy said he knows time is running out for many of them. With no certainty that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Biden Administration, and Canada will cooperate to allow a cruise ship season this year, Dunleavy is working on plans to try to keep businesses alive for another year.
He’s setting aside $150 million for the tourism sector, which will be a mix of marketing and grants.
And, to entice people to come to Alaska, he said the State of Alaska will give a free Covid-19 vaccine to anyone who comes to Alaska who wants the shot. People will be able to get the shot at the Anchorage and Fairbanks airports.
As for Alaska’s part of the American Rescue Plan money, “we are going to be proposing the Legislature looks at tranches of money. About $1 billion is heading our way. How do we help our businesses, tourism, business structure, harbors, ports, and how do we help protect Alaska,” he said.
His plan will look at tranches of funding from the ARP money, to include:
- Protecting Alaskans – $80 million
- Emergency response costs including addressing the domestic violence impacts of COVID-19 ($6M), portable equipment, and individual security including food security, and fishermen COVID-19 coverage.
- Alaska Tourism Revitalization – $150 million
- Industry relief to promote tourism and adapt services for potential loss of cruise ship season.
- Economic Recovery and Innovation– $325 million
- Relief to businesses and organizations impacted by the pandemic and preparing Alaska’s economy to emerge as a destination for workers, investors, and families.
- Build Alaska – Infrastructure Investment – $325 million
- Alaska’s backlog of infrastructure needs includes safe water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure investments; leverage local and other funding using matching grant programs will benefit under this proposal.
- General Fund Offset – $139.26 million
- Utilize ARP funding, up to $1.02B, to offset existing general fund expenditures.
The American Rescue Plan Act also provided $230.7 million for payments to Alaska communities, of which $185.4 million requires appropriation and distribution by the State of Alaska to communities based on a federal formula.
Numerous state programs were awarded increased federal funding through the ARP, totaling $220 million for public health and safety, workforce development, education, transportation, and emergency management.
Among the plans, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer has been tapped to visit several communities dependent on tourism to learn the best strategy for helping small businesses.
His first stop will be in Sitka on Tuesday. Then, he’ll have a meeting in Juneau with Zoom capabilities so people around Southeast Alaska can attend. After that, it’s off to Ketchikan next Thursday, and Kodiak on Saturday. He’ll also visit with small tourism business leaders in Fairbanks, Healy, and Nome.
The tour is to inform a report to the governor on how best to keep businesses alive through yet another year that will likely be grim for these seasonal business owners. The focus will be on Alaska-owned businesses, Meyer said.
Dunleavy said he is losing hope with action needed by the CDC to allow a cruise season to proceed this year.
“If we don’t know in the next couple of days, I’m afraid those assets will be deployed by those companies in other places. We need a little help from the CDC.”
“In the event that doesn’t occur, we are fully prepared to file suit to talk about the impacts to our communities and municipalities. If that is the only took that’s going to be let in our toolbox we are prepared to do that,” he said.