JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s decision to expand eligibility has prompted a rush of applications for small business aid using federal coronavirus relief funds.

The eligibility rule changes by the Republican governor prompted a wave of new applications Monday for the state-run program, KTOO Public Media in Juneau reported.

Under the previous rules, businesses were not eligible if they had received federal Paycheck Protection Program funds and Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

Dunleavy announced his administration was eliminating the restrictions Aug. 20.

Businesses had applied for only $169 million of the $290 budgeted for the program through Aug. 18.

A total of $301.3 million had been requested after 812 businesses applied Monday for $55.6 million in expanded funding, said Julie Anderson, commissioner of the state Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.

There have been 5,785 applicants and the state continues to take applications because program administrators expect some of the businesses and expenses will not be eligible.


About $10 million of the program’s budget will go toward operating expenses, Anderson said.

Alan Weitzner, executive director of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, said the expanded eligibility made an immediate difference.

“Just by the results that we saw on Monday alone, show how important this change was for Alaska’s small businesses,” he said.

The sectors with the most applications include commercial fishing, hospitality, retail and recreation.

“I think everyone understands how significantly the fishing and tourism industries have been impacted through this virus,” Anderson said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.