Roughly $17.5 million came into the Haines Borough through the CARES Act in 2020, not counting Economic Impact Payments (EIP) to individuals, also known as “stimulus checks.” Based on census data, it’s likely that between $1.5 million and $2 million entered the community through the first and second EIP, but the IRS said it doesn’t have a community-specific breakdown at this point.

The CARES Act, a federal economic stimulus package passed last spring, made money available to individuals, businesses, and state, local and tribal governments to help offset the effects of the pandemic-driven economic shutdown. The bill specified that money be spent on coronavirus-related costs incurred between March and December of 2020.

For Haines, the bulk of CARES Act funding came in the form of loans and grants to local businesses and nonprofits, roughly $13 million in total: $3.5 million through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP); $4.7 through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL); $300,000 through the EIDL Advance; and $4.4 million through the state’s AK CARES Grant program, according to Alaska Small Business Development Center (SBDC) executive director Jon Bittner. Among Southeast communities, Haines received the sixth largest combined amount through these programs, behind Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Petersburg and Skagway, in that order.

The AK CARES Grant program issued 117 separate grants to Haines businesses and nonprofits, with an average disbursement of $37,217, according to SBDC data. The PPP and EIDL each issued 82 loans, with average disbursements of $42,882 and $58,366, respectively. In addition, three nonprofits, Becky’s Place, Chilkat Valley Preschool and Haines Assisted Living, received a total of $400,000 in grants through the state’s Coronavirus Nonprofit Relief Fund.

The CARES Act funds entered Haines in a year when tourism, a main driver of the local economy, was almost nonexistent due to border closures, cruise ship bans and independent visitors electing not to travel due to health concerns.

Sales tax revenue for the Haines Borough was down $936,000 between March and November of 2020, compared to the same period the prior year, chief fiscal officer Jila Stuart said. She said the numbers for December aren’t yet available.

Although sales tax doesn’t account for all the revenue the community lost due to the pandemic, Stuart said it’s a decent approximation. The loss in sales tax translates to a roughly $17 million decline in revenue for businesses boroughwide.

Business owners who took advantage of one or more of the CARES Act-funded programs said the CARES Act-funded loans and grants were critical for making it through 2020.

“The grant moneys allowed us to keep our business open and pay our bills even with extremely limited sales. Without the grants we probably would have closed down or ended up in debt,” Haines Rafting Company owner Andy Hedden said. He said he ended up taking advantage of the PPP, AK CARES Grant program and Haines Borough business grant program. He said he used the grants to retain part-time employees, pay rent and utilities, and keep the company’s website and reservation system active.

The grants and loans were also vital for businesses less directly tied to the tourism industry.

“We distribute throughout Alaska, so when bars and restaurants are having a hard time selling, it directly impacts us, as well as the obvious loss of people visiting Haines directly,” Port Chilkoot Distillery owner Heather Shade said. “With the grants we were able to keep all our full-time staff working and the utilities paid while we initiated some business pivots that will help us stay afloat through this next year.”

In addition to the state and federal grant and loan programs, businesses and nonprofits were also able to apply for grants through the borough.

The borough received just over $4 million after the state decided to distribute a portion of its CARES Act funds to communities across Alaska. A little less than one-quarter of the borough’s funds went toward grant programs for businesses and nonprofits, awarding grants between $500 and $10,000 based on 2019 revenue.

Borough CARES Act funds were also used for grants to individuals, to support food security, for capital projects like the purchase of a new ambulance and a drinking water fill station, and to support borough operating costs associated with the pandemic.

“Roughly $500,000 of CARES Act funds went towards borough payroll for emergency/COVID response,” Stuart said. The funds were helpful in a year when borough revenue was down. “Without CARES Act funds, we would have had to cut services or raise taxes,” she said.

Haines is looking ahead at another challenging year for individuals, businesses and local government in terms of economics. In early February, Canada extended its cruise-ship ban, crushing any remaining hope for a bustling 2021 tourism season with visits from large cruise ships. Some smaller American ships could still make their way to Haines, but it’s unlikely revenue will resemble pre-pandemic levels, according to local tourism industry experts.

For some business owners, another round of grants may be necessary to keep businesses going through 2021.

“I sincerely hope there will be another round of these types of grants because it will allow us keep our doors open and help Haines recover faster,” Hedden said. 

The U.S. Congress is currently working to pass another almost $2 trillion coronavirus relief package to provide economic support to individuals, businesses, and state and local governments.