Koniag pledges $50,000 to support COVID-19 response efforts

Last week, Koniag announced a $50,000 donation to support COVID-19 response efforts for Alaska Native tribes and other beneficiaries on the Kodiak archipelago. President of Koniag, Shauna Hegna, says the corporation has met with tribal leaders and village corporation leaders four times since the beginning of the pandemic, and narrowed down their top concern to food security.

Part of the threat to food security during the pandemic is the hit to steady incomes. In town, many businesses have at least partially shut down or laid off employees. Fishing season is up in the air. In the villages, seasonal opportunities such as guiding fishing or hunting, operating lodges for visitors are also in jeopardy.

“The other thing is to limit touch points,” she said. For many villages without a grocery store, residents must take a flight into town to pick up supplies. “And I think that that can be really problematic when you’re trying to keep disease from spreading into your village. You want people to be hunkered down at home. That absolutely impacts our communities’ ability to have sustainable food security when they don’t have grocery stores in their own villages.”

Koniag’s $50,000 donation is being split up to benefit a number of organizations that work to protect food security. $5,000 is going to the community gardens in Larsen Bay, Port Lions, Ouzinkie and Old Harbor. Another $5,000 is going to KANA’s food security program, which flies groceries to the villages of Akhiok and Karluk.

$6,000 is going to the Kodiak Island Borough School District school lunch program. Another $6,000 will benefit the Senior Citizens of Kodiak meals program. And $3,000 is going to the Salvation Army food bank. Finally Koniag is donating $10,000 to the Alutiiq Museum, to continue working on other projects while the museum itself is closed to visitors.

Koniag’s board also opted to release the next round of shareholder distributions at the end of April, instead of as scheduled in early June.

“They decided that it’s really important that we get cash in the hands of our shareholders and our village corporations as quickly as possible so they could leverage those resources to respond to the pandemic,” said Hegna.

Hegna declined to state how much individual shareholders would be expecting, or the total amount being distributed.

As the pandemic progresses, Hegna says Koniag will continue to meet with village and tribal leaders to identify needs and aid efforts. She said that might advocating to the state government or state representatives on behalf of the island, connecting people with nonprofit organizations, or delivering more financial aid.

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