A final version of Governor Bill Walker’s budget was submitted to lawmakers last week, bringing a combination of new cuts while and restored funding to other programs, including nearly $10 million to homeless and emergency shelters statewide.
An amended capital budget released Wednesday, Feb. 18, has the Walker administration restoring $7.7 million to the state’s basic homeless assistance program, or BHAP, grant. The funding, which goes out to 40 shelters helping more than 13,000 of Alaska’s most vulnerable, had been zeroed out from a combined $8 million dollars from last year.
With the state’s $3.5 billion budget squeeze, the reinstated grant represent just a 4 percent cut over last year; a cut many shelters said they can live with.
“Given that the governor has put this money back into the BHAP program, I feel much more confident about next winter, and the shelter, having enough operating funds,” said Sue Steinacher, the executive director with Nome’s Emergency Shelter Team, or NEST.
Steinacher said the restored grant means two-thirds of the shelter’s funding is now secure, fully funding the shelter itself and allowing additional donations from local groups like the City of Nome, Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, and Norton Sound Health Corporation, and Bering Straits Native Corporation to go toward needs beyond the emergency shelter.
“There’s any number of reasons that a housing crisis can occur,” Steinacher said. “When we are able to draw in extra funds … we can expand into homeless prevention, sober housing, and some of the other critical emergency housing needs that nobody else in town is equipped to address.”
Beyond NEST in Nome, the BHAP grant will go to shelters in Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley, Bethel, Unalaska, and more than two dozen other organizations statewide.
Another grant program through the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority—known as the special needs housing grant—also saw $1.5 million dollars restored in the governor’s amended budget.