KDLL: Federal aid, Kenai program deadline extended

The deadline for businesses to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program was extended last week and now runs until August 8.

The PPP offers loans to businesses for relief from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. These loans become grants and don’t have to be paid back as long as 60 percent of the money is used for payroll and other eligible expenses. The program surfaced in March, and while many businesses applied for it then, others were left out. Notably, commercial fishermen were largely excluded, as many pay their employees through 1099 forms as independent contractors rather than as W2 employees.

A recent rule change made commercial fishermen eligible, but the deadline for the program fell on June 30, giving fishermen less than a week to apply for it. Congress acted and extended the program to Aug. 8. Alaska senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan noted in a press release that the tight timeline for commercial fishermen was a big part of it.

Business owners can find more information on the PPP through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website or offices. One trick, though: getting the PPP funds makes businesses ineligible for Alaska-specific coronavirus relief. Right now, the Alaska Legislature is trying to fix an error in its own coronavirus relief program to allow those businesses who received PPP and economic impact disaster loans to access AK CARES funds.

The City of Kenai is moving forward with its own CARES distribution program. Last week, the city sent out nearly $2 million in aid to small businesses and nonprofits, and on Wednesday, the council voted to extend that period by a week. The resolution they approved also authorizes a second phase of distribution in the fall. There’s about $1.1 million left in that part of the city’s CARES money for both this extension and another phase later this year, says city manager Paul Ostrander.

"Right now, it’s about $1.1 million," he said. "If we reopen this for a week, that’s going to cut into that a little bit. But whatever those leftover funds are at that point, this resolution approves a second program that I’m proposing be later on in the year at some point, the administration would track what’s going on and try to determine need, and bring it back to council for their approval both for guidance, if the program does vary, but also the timing of it as well."

The council also approved a resolution authorizing a program to provide individual assistance in five separate programs, including items such as mental health counseling for city residents and small business marketing assistance. One of the programs makes commercial fishermen eligible for the city’s aid program as well, as long as they netted at least $10,000 last year. The floor was originally set at $25,000, following the state’s guidelines, but council member Robert Peterkin noted that last year was very poor.

"I think most of the drift fleet last year—and I don’t know if you’re going to make the $25,000 in one year—I don’t think most of them delivered $25,000 worth of fish last year," he said.

Because commercial fishermen are also busy on the water for the next month or so, Ostrander says the city also extended that program through the end of August. For more information about the city’s CARES Act funding or to apply, visit the City of Kenai’s website.

By:  Elizabeth Earl
Source: KDLL