Nome recently had its first visitors from the state capitol since the pandemic began. Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer and former representative Bill Thomas arrived on April 30th to learn how local business owners have been impacted by the decimated cruise season.
Thanks to the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP), Alaska will receive $1.02 billion this year for COVID-19 recovery efforts. Governor Mike Dunleavy proposed using 150 million of those dollars for tourism revitalization, specifically in the cruise industry. Lt. Gov. Meyer says any Nome businesses that can prove that they were negatively impacted by the diminished cruise season in 2020 can benefit from these funds.
“The final decision on who qualifies and [doesn’t qualify] will be up to our Commerce Department. And based on the general guidelines that the Governor has put out, that we help businesses adversely impacted by cruise ships, or lack of cruise ships, your businesses are definitely impacted. Not to the extent that folks in Southeast Alaska are but still impacted to some extent.”– Kevin Meyer
With the funds targeting just a small sector of Nome’s tourism industry, many Western Alaskans who do not own businesses or may feel more financial impact from the loss of regional events like Iditarod, would not be able to benefit from this portion of the funds. Meyer says that another proposed slice of the ARP funds, intended for economic recovery and innovation, could potentially benefit individuals and businesses who lost money in other sectors of tourism, such as mushing or birding.
“And then there is $325 million that [the Governor] is proposing to use just for economic recovery and innovation. This is a relief to businesses, organizations, impacted by the pandemic and preparing Alaska’s economy for investment as we reach the end of the pandemic and return to normal life. So I’m not clear who would qualify for that, but certainly that title makes me think that these smaller folks would qualify for that.”– Kevin Meyer
Drew McCann of the Nome Visitors Bureau, who helped organize Meyer’s stop in Nome, was one of the community members who sat down to chat with the Lieutenant Governor. He says he is optimistic that Meyer will advocate for Nome’s businesses.
“We hope that the full amount makes it through the Legislature … I think we left with letting the Lieutenant Governor know that the impact in Nome [last year] was hard to measure, but that the interest in tourism in Nome was on a positive trend, so I think that he received that well and will represent that when he goes back to speak to the Governor for the revitalization plan.”– Drew McCann
Nome was the last stop in the Lieutenant Governor’s tour around the state. Meyer and Thomas also visited Fairbanks, Ketchikan, and other southern communities. Meyer says a report of the feedback he received from Alaskans will be sent to Governor Dunleavy for review.
The Legislature has the final say in how the millions in relief funds will be spent and must make a decision before they adjourn the session on May 19th.
Citizens who have comments or concerns relating to how the state’s tourism industry has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, can send an email to [email protected].
Image at top: Former representative Bill Thomas and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer at the Nome City Hall on April 30th. Photo taken by KNOM.