Bethel’s tribe, Orutsararmiut Native Council, has received a huge amount of money to deal with COVID-19’s impact on the community. ONC Executive Director Mark Springer says that the organization got $13.8 million in Federal CARES Act funding.
This is money set aside for Native tribes, and the number doesn’t include the additional CARES Act funding that arrived for ONC’s Housing Department, seniors programs, and workforce development, among other programs which have also received additional funding.
"We’ve had a pretty significant amount of money, basically three years of budget, come in that we have to spend by the 30th of December,” Springer said.
ONC is using some funds to pay childcare providers who lost their income, and the ONC board set aside about $5 million for health care. The organization is using some of the money to mount an advertising campaign to convince travelers to the region to get tested for the virus.
“We are going to try to do a fairly significant advertising campaign on Anchorage media asking people to please, if you’re coming to Bethel, if you’re coming to rural Alaska, get tested before you come out here,” Springer said.
ONC is also planning to spend funds for personal protective equipment like masks and other gear. Springer expects the real challenge to be preparing for additional outbreaks of the coronavirus once the weather gets colder.