Skagway will use most of its $2M Norwegian Cruise Line donation for small business relief

Quiet streets in Skagway. September 2020 (Claire Stremple/KHNS)

Earlier this year, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings gave $2 million to the municipality of Skagway, calling it a goodwill gesture to help the community weather the pandemic. Now the Skagway Assembly has set aside $1.2 million of those funds for small businesses.

Norwegian Cruise Line executive Steve Moeller told KHNS back in May that the $2 million dollar gift had no strings attached.

“We want to make sure that Skagway is still there when we come back,” Moeller said. “Skagway is very critical to us.”

Some estimates show as much as 95% of Skagway’s economy was lost due to the pandemic-related shutdowns of 2020. Some cruise ships returned in 2021, but passenger counts remained less than a tenth of a typical tourist season.

On Friday, Skagway officials announced that three-fifths of the $2 million donation would be distributed to small local businesses through a small business relief grant program.

The $1.2 million in grants are being coordinated by the Skagway Development Corporation, a business resource center in Skagway that helps local companies through a variety of programs.

Executive Director Kaitlyn Jared says the application process is fairly simple and should only take 15-20 minutes.

“What they’ll need is a complete application, their 2021 state and local business licenses — because those all have to be up to date — and then I will also need a copy of their 2019 and 2020 tax returns to verify the numbers that they provided on the application,” Jared said.

The application period runs from now through Oct. 4.

Jared says the application for this program is very similar to the application for the state’s American Rescue Plan business relief program, and she hopes that will make it easier for local businesses to apply for both.

Business headquarters must be registered in Skagway, which would make operators with state licenses registered elsewhere, like Haines or Juneau, ineligible.

Still, Jared expects around 200 out of Skagway’s nearly 500 registered businesses to apply for their share of the $1.2 million. The most any single business could receive would be $40,000.

“Most businesses are hurting a lot still. So I think they will be more inclined to apply,” said Jared.

Jared also says that because the program is being administered by the Skagway Development Corporation, the contents of applications will be confidential.

The remaining $800,000 of the $2 million gift will be distributed in part to the local food bank, the local tribal government and a utilities assistance program. That leaves $450,000 for unemployment assistance, which the municipality plans to make available to Skagway residents over the winter. The details of that program haven’t been finalized.

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