We know the economy is taking a hard hit, and this is trickling down to each of you. The Board of Directors met this week to discuss ways to support our shareholders and community and will have a better sense of how we will approach this issue early next week. We are currently meeting with legislators, as well as regional, state and national leadership, to determine the resources available to deal with this situation, and to see where Chugach can provide aid. We commit to sharing these updates with you via our website and social media pages as we make decisions.
We also understand that maintaining a healthy corporation will allow us to continue to take care of our people. Our emergency response team is meeting daily to ensure we’re protecting our employees and maintaining essential business operations. We made the decision to close our JL Towers headquarters to the public starting Friday, March 20th, and most of our Corporate and regional office employees are working from home. You can still reach us by phone and email on our Contact Us page.
I am encouraged by President Trump’s latest briefing this morning, which implemented new steps to support Americans at this time, including cancelling standardized tests for K-12 students this year, temporarily waiving interest on student loans and extending the tax filing deadline to July 15. They are also working towards instituting border restrictions on non-essential travel to minimize the spread of the virus, and increasing production and lifting travel restrictions on truckers who are keeping shelves stocked.
Beyond that, I wanted to take a moment to reinforce the best actions you can take as individuals to protect yourself and others.
- Hygiene: You’ve all heard this by now, but it’s worth saying again – the best way to lower your risk of contracting or passing along the virus is to wash your hands after you cough, sneeze, touch your face, use the restroom, or are about to leave one place for another. Clean and disinfect frequently used items, like doorknobs, light switches, phones and laptops.
- Stay Home: Stay home if you’re sick. Being in large crowds can risk not only your health, but those around you. The more you’re in public, the more chances the virus has to transmit to others.
- Stock up on essentials: We’ve already seen New York and California taking drastic steps to institute “safer-at-home” orders for residents. We should assume that we could see the same orders in other areas in the future. Prepare yourselves and your families by stocking up on food and essentials in the event of a potential quarantine or lockdown. You should plan on having two weeks’ worth of supplies. However, please bear in mind that hoarding items can be harmful to Elders and other vulnerable members of our population that may have more difficulty stocking up right now.
- Consider Your Community: These are extraordinary times, and we encourage you to look out for your colleagues, friends, neighbors and community members if you have the capacity to do so. Building community is built into our core behaviors, and the needs right now are great – even if it’s as simple as picking up groceries for an elderly neighbor.
- Know the Facts: Misinformation is also rampant during periods of panic. Make sure you’re looking beyond the headlines and go to reputable sources of information such as the CDC, WHO and, locally, the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services.
I am so proud of the time I have served on the Chugach Board of Directors. It’s easy to serve in a leadership position in times of prosperity, but the true test that I and my fellow Board members, and all of you, will have to face is right now. The hardships that COVID-19 are placing before us have just begun, but I have faith that we will overcome these difficulties. My faith is grounded in the three pillars that the Board of Directors has adopted: Resiliency, Respect and Reciprocity.
Reciprocity ensures an exchange that is mutually beneficial to all who are sitting at the table. Right now, our regional leaders are demonstrating this by collaborating with one another to share resources, tools and insight to address this challenge.
Respect means that we adhere to the Native values that have allowed us to flourish for more than 5,000 years. Our Elders taught us these values, and now, more than ever, they need our help. They have always looked after us, and now each of us must do the same for them.
The resiliency of our people is what gives me the most hope. We are going to come out on the other side of the Coronavirus, and if we hold to these three pillars, we will be able to walk through it all with courage and dignity.
Please know that you are not alone in this. Chugach has set up a weekly meeting with our region’s leaders to ensure that every Chugach community is being heard, and we’re so fortunate to have our Board Director Julie Kitka serving as the President of Alaska Federation of Natives. Julie and AFN have a pulse on all the state and federal efforts that are being brought to bear for Alaska and for our shareholders and families, and she is sharing the latest updates and contact information for the resources that will be needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and prevent the loss of life in our communities.
As always, we are working on your behalf, but remember, effort will be required from every one of us. We have to practice social distancing. We have to maintain a strict regimen of hygiene, and we have to look after one another, especially our beloved Elders.
Chairman of the Board of Directors
Interim President & CEO