Coastal Villages Region Fund (CVRF) serves a large geographic area with well over 9,000 residents. Its mission is to alleviate poverty and promote sustainable development in the 20 member communities in that area. Delivering benefits equitably and consistently over the long term across all of those communities is critical to that mission.
The state economy is struggling and federal and state sources of funding are drying up. To ensure CVRF is able to help the region weather the difficult economic times ahead, in 2016 the decision was made to pursue only healthy and vibrant programs that provide the greatest benefit to the largest number of people. Consequently, salmon and halibut operations were suspended. There has been no significant change in the factors that led to that decision. Therefore, those operations will remain suspended in 2017.
CVRF heavily subsidized those fisheries from 1998 to 2015 in an attempt to foster a local, self-supporting industry in an impoverished area that had not had consistent access to local processing. In support of that goal, in 2009 CVRF opened a fish processing facility in Platinum. That effort was costly and ultimately supported only a relatively small number of fishermen who were fortunate enough to live close to the fisheries.
The effort failed to create a self-supporting local industry. Halibut quotas have been too low to support the number of people interested in participating in that fishery. Moreover, there has been substantial pressure on the fish stocks from several user groups, and policy makers have been unable to commit to a schedule of consistent and reliable commercial salmon openers, escalating costs.
The local fisheries operated at a significant loss for many more years than anticipated. CVRF was pouring its earnings in the Bering Sea fisheries into the local fisheries in the form of substantial yearly subsidies with only a limited and very localized effect and no end in sight.
Therefore, in 2016, after spending more than 15 years and millions in benefit dollars in the attempt to foster the industry, CVRF made the difficult to decision to suspend the experiment and instead focus on projects that impact its member communities more broadly and more equitably, sustaining and expanding existing, proven programs and creating new ones. In 2017, those programs include:
• Sales and services: $3.6 million, mostly in the form of wages and benefits, for mechanic/welders who live and work in CVRF’s member communities, performing repairs and maintenance projects locally;
• Community service centers (CSCs) and community service representatives (CSRs): $3.5 million, mostly in the form of wages and benefits, for CSRs who live and work in CVRF’s member communities, serving as a conduit between CVRF and their communities;
• People Propel®: $1.6 million to help residents purchase equipment crucial to life in rural Alaska such as ATVs, snowmachines, and outboard motors;
• Youth-to-work program: $911,000, mostly in the form of wages, to employ young men and women between the ages of 14 and 19, primarily during the summer, and to pay community members to instruct them;
• Designated fund: $500,000 to provide grants to communities to assist them with projects;
• Scholarships: $450,000 to support and encourage residents to pursue higher education;
• Elder program: $400,000 to purchase and distribute heating oil, food, and parkas to elders to help defray the cost of living;
• Heating oil program: $400,000 to purchase heating oil to help households defray the high cost of heating their homes;
• Ciuneq: $400,000 to fund a program that encourages teens to pursue higher education and career development;
• Internships: $139,000, mostly in the form of wages and benefits, to fund internships in CVRF’s Anchorage office and at the interns’ local CSCs;
• Youth leadership program: $108,000 to fund youth projects and activities directly and through donations to other organizations’ projects;
• Tax assistance: $102,500 to bring the Alaska Business Development Center to all 20 of CVRF’s member communities to provide free tax preparation services;
• Funeral assistance: $60,000 to defray the cost of funerals;
• Training funds: $30,000 to help residents partake in training opportunities and obtain certifications; and
• Outreach, employment, and other programs: $2.3 million to keep the region’s residents informed and engaged, recruit for work on board CVRF’s wholly-owned Bering Sea vessels, and to support CVRF’s member communities and the region in other ways.
CVRF is focused on the future. It is continuously re-evaluating existing programs and analyzing potential new programs in its mission to create economic opportunity and promote sustainable development in each of its 20 member communities. CVRF is confident that 2017 will bring improved, redesigned, and new programs that provide more support, and more equitable support, to its communities.