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Federal stimulus seekers in Alaska keep hotline busy

Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2009

FAIRBANKS - A hotline set up to link Alaskans with millions in federal stimulus money has been ringing a lot lately.

Jon Bittner, a legislative aide assigned to man the Alaska Clearinghouse, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that he's swamped with e-mail inquiries as well. He said the inquiries are coming from cities, nonprofit organizations and others wondering how to apply for grants funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Bittner said the clearinghouse is getting calls from all over Alaska.

"They heard about the stimulus. They heard about us. We definitely try to help them as much as we can," he said.

That includes establishing a Twitter link to feed new information directly to those who need it, he said.

"This is happening so quickly. We're trying to stay on top of it, and we're trying very hard to get this information out," said Sharon Lind, public information officer for the Denali Commission, which is partnering with the Legislature on the clearinghouse.

Most requests for information about competitive grants came from people who have never applied for federal funding. In many instances, Alaska entities will be vying for a share of funds with communities across the country.

"Most of the grants we deal with are nationwide competitions," Bittner said, referencing $450 million available for technology opportunities. "It sounds like a lot of money, but when you consider the number of organizations applying for those sorts of grants, it becomes a bit less impressive."

The clearinghouse coordinates information and opportunities created by the federal stimulus package, but only regarding money that flows directly from Washington, D.C., to locals.

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