Kenai Peninsula one of Alaska’s top areas for virus relief

Some buildings sillheoutted by a sunset
Homer, Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula. (Creative Commons)

The Kenai Peninsula Borough received more state and municipal coronavirus relief funds than almost anywhere else in Alaska, a new report said.

An analysis by the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District found the area in southern Alaska received just under $50 million, the Peninsula Clarion reported Tuesday.

The analysis found 1,041 peninsula-based businesses received direct assistance from the state’s AK CARES small business relief grants.

The amount was second only to the Municipality of Anchorage, where 1,438 businesses received $73 million in state aid.

The state distributed about $274 million in direct relief to small businesses, the report said.

About 20% of the AK CARES funds went to the Kenai Peninsula, but the borough only accounts for about 7% of Alaska’s population, said Tim Dillon, executive director of the development district.

A wide range of peninsula industries received small business grants, the development district’s data show.

The commercial fishing industry received the most support with 298 individual business grants accounting for more than $16 million. Businesses in the accommodations and food services category received 142 grants for just under $6.6 million.

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting businesses received 44 grants of about $1.6 million. Health care and social assistance businesses received 48 grants of more than $2.5 million. Retail trade businesses received 80 grants of about $4.2 million.

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, construction and real estate business also received grants, along with professional, scientific and technical services companies.

Dillon said he was surprised by the amount of assistance peninsula-based businesses received, but he believes the unique nature of the development district contributed to the high volume of assistance.

The Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District is one of nine Alaska Regional Development Organizations required under state statute to implement regional economic development strategies.

The Kenai organization is the only one of those nine functioning as a privately operated nonprofit rather than an agency within a borough or municipality, Dillon said.

The group was able to act more quickly than its counterparts without many of the obligations facing government agencies such as public notices or meetings about specific policy decisions, Dillon said.

While other organizations were held to normal business hours, Dillon said the Kenai organization was “getting calls directly to our cellphones at 10:30 at night on a Saturday from people needing our help with the paperwork.”