By Associated Press - Thursday, December 31, 2020

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Small businesses in Alaska say new federal coronavirus relief funds will provide needed aid, especially for those in the service industry facing their slowest time of the year.

The aid package grants almost $300 billion nationwide in new forgivable loans. The first round of federal aid in March provided about $1.3 billion to roughly 12,000 Alaska businesses, the Anchorage Daily News reported Tuesday.

The new package provides extra money for restaurants, breweries, bars, hotels, live venues, movie theaters and cultural institutions, which were hit hard by public health restrictions aiming to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Matt Gill, co-owner of Ginger restaurant in downtown Anchorage, said business is down almost 70% from last year and that numbers from December are even worse. Indoor dining in the city will resume Friday, but there are still restrictions that will limit revenue, Gill said.

The restaurant received a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan of more than $150,000 in April, meant to keep workers on the payroll. Gill said the restaurant would apply for another loan.

“We’ve always agreed to keep cash on hand for a rainy day, but now it’s monsoon season,” Gill said. “Our ultimate goal is to make sure we have a place to keep people employed at.”

Midnight Sun Brewing in Anchorage was able to stay open by receiving a $300,000 Paycheck Protection Program loan, said Lee Ellis, president of the brewery and the Brewers Guild of Alaska.

The brewery plans to apply for another loan, Ellis said, adding that it’s lost roughly $1 million, or 30% of its annual revenue.

“This help is coming at a very critical time,” Ellis said. “For most Alaska businesses, the next four months are the bleakest of the year.”

The U.S. Small Business Administration has not yet released the application details for the new funding.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican, told the newspaper Tuesday that he hopes the money will keep businesses afloat until COVID-19 vaccines help the economy and tourism bounce back.

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