From unemployment insurance to small business loans, many Alaskans have been forced, suddenly, to navigate a myriad of social benefits, including those in the recently-passed federal CARES Act.
Alaska Public Media has been following the new programs as they roll out, and we’re collecting the latest information here:
- Unemployment insurance: Unemployment Insurance is a state-administered, federally funded program that recently had benefits boosted in the CARES Act. You can earn up to $370 a week, plus up to $75 for each dependent if you apply on the state’s website, and many of the usual requirements have been waived or modified. State administrators are now advising self-employed people and those working in the gig economy to start applying for regular benefits, even though they will likely be denied. That will help speed up the process of getting approved once the system for non-traditional workers is up and running, which the department says that might not happen until early to mid-June.
- Small business loans: Many affected small businesses could be eligible for the Payment Protection Program, which offers loans and grants for employers who agree to keep employees on their payrolls. The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering $10,000 ‘loans’ with fewer requirements than usual, as well as the possibility that you won’t ever have to pay them back provided three-quarters of the money goes directly to keeping employees on payroll. The first round of the program was a big hit and businesses still in need of cash will have to wait for a second round of funding from Congress. Local programs might be able to help as well, so check with your community’s government for more options.
- Food assistance: The Food Bank of Alaska says it’s ready for the challenge of providing more meals to more people who have recently found themselves in a position where they can’t afford food. Their website has an online map where you can find pantries around the state. There are also meals delivered to kids around the state through a variety of partners. Additionally, there are federal programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Women, Infants & Chidren) that you can apply for through the state’s website.
- Utilities: Utility companies around the state have agreed to waive late fees and have agreed not to disconnect customers who can’t pay. Private companies have followed suit, signing the Keep Americans Connected pledge and offering free internet or upgrades.
- Direct payments: Regardless of what you apply for, as long as you’ve paid your taxes and your income isn’t over $75,000, you’ll be getting a direct $1,200 “economic impact payment” from the federal government as part of the CARES Act. Many Alaskans may already have that money in their bank accounts if they have a direct deposit set up. If not, paper checks should arrive in the coming days. Also, $1000 PFDs.