The Fairbanks North Star Borough set up grant programs to disburse $15,000 to about 600 businesses. But only 200 have applied. An ordinance before the Borough Assembly this week will expand the opportunities.
The CARES money pass-through program thought to have the most impact was the Business Interruption Grant, or BIG. With so many small businesses affected by the pandemic, the Borough Assembly thought to target them. But only 200 have applied for the money.
“It’s really hard to speculate why we are seeing numbers lower than what we anticipated. It’s kind of disappointing; we had set aside that much money to go out, and we’re just not seen the applications.”
That’s Jim Williams, the borough’s Chief of Staff. The money came from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that was passed by Congress in late March. But the restrictions on the money may have made it difficult for Alaska businesses to comply. Only businesses and non-profits who spent more than 25% above their regular expenses, or lost more than a quarter of their revenue qualify for the grant. And only for the period of March through the end of May.
“The rules on the federal side are pretty clear, at the end of the day, it doesn’t change the federal guidance that we have to follow.”
An ordinance before the Assembly on Thursday would increase the impact time to any six months between March and November. AND it would increase the maximum funding amount for the Business Interruption Grant to $30,000.
If an application was previously submitted and approved, a second application may be submitted for an additional $15,000 provided that all other program requirements are met.
Williams says he is hearing from businesses and non-profits.
“ I feel pretty hopeful, you know I know how resilient our town is and once all the conditions are back in place, I’m pretty hopeful that we are going to bounce right back where we need to be.”
The ordinance is expected to pass Thursday night (November 5th) and will take effect Nov. 6th, when the contractor can start accepting expanded applications at the borough CARES website: www.fnsb.gov/cares.
The FNSB CARES program does not have any money for families or individuals, but it is still offering a Personal Protection Equipment Grant (PPEG) to reimburse businesses who spent money on PPE. Both grant programs close on Nov. 30th.