VOICE Updates Week of 4/27 - 5/1

VOICE Updates Week of 4/27 - 5/1
Posted on 04/30/2020

We are transitioning back to some of our normal work and the priorities that were set forth for VOICE in January now that the State of Alaska has set out a plan to reopen – though we will continue to keep you informed as things progress with COVID-19. We wanted to quickly update you on some of the things that we have started to work on. Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions for us moving forward.

1.       North Slope Middle & High School Graduates

As you know, May is graduation month. With students being out of school and commencement ceremonies currently cancelled due to COVID, we would like to highlight 2020 graduates on our VOICE Facebook and Twitter pages. If you know a graduate, please submit their name (with a picture if you have one) and a little bit about the graduate to myself or Katie. We will be posting about graduates every Friday for the month of May. Please spread the word and encourage folks to submit, graduating high school is a huge accomplishment and they deserve to be celebrated!

2.       New VOICE Website

We are in the final stages of developing a new VOICE website. VOICE has grown tremendously as an organization over the last couple of years and we feel the website should represent that. Some highlights of the new site will be: a more user-friendly interface, updated pictures and quotes, easier access to VOICE publications and reports, more focus on our 2050 vision, and integration with our social media pages. We will let you know when that goes live and we would love your feedback on how the site works with the connectivity in your communities.

3.       Supporting Alaska Native Artists

One of our priorities for 2020 was to create greater awareness around the legality of walrus ivory in Native-made art, specifically for tourists travelling to Alaska. While tourism will be greatly impacted this summer, we will continue to push this issue to build connections and create momentum for the future when tourism picks back up. Please see attached ad that recently ran in the Alaska’s Visitors Guide encouraging people to support Alaska Native artists in their federally-protected right to utilize and sell walrus ivory.

4.       Census 2020

Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the census for many communities was postponed in order to limit the risk of potential coronavirus exposure in rural communities. On the North Slope, only Atqasuk was completed before the interruption. The Census is currently working to develop a new schedule for the remaining communities. VOICE has been working with the North Slope Borough Planning Department and TNHA to develop an awareness and advocacy campaign to let people know that those efforts will be restarted soon and to encourage people to respond to the Census – more responses = more funding! We will release this campaign, which includes radio and TV PSA’s, once we have more clarity about the timeline. We will continue to update you on those efforts and would like your assistance in making sure your community is well informed and accurately counted.

5.       Coronavirus Relief Funding

As you may have heard, there is still remaining controversy around who qualifies for the CARES money and the distribution of funds has been held up until there is a final court decision. We will continue to pass along information and updates as we become aware of them.

6.       Port Access Route Study

Another one of our 2020 priorities was to actively participate in the development and input to the Arctic Coast Port Access Route Study. Part of this priority was a commitment to visit and hold a meeting in each coastal community to present the study and gather input. Obviously, those efforts were sidelined due to recent events and there are a few communities that we were unable to visit. Currently, the deadline for the comment period is June 30th, but we will be working with the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management and the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission to request the Coast Guard extend the deadline until a meeting can be held in every North Slope coastal community that could be impacted by this study. We will be developing comments in the meantime in case our request for an extension is denied based on what we have heard previously from communities and make an effort to reach out to the remaining communities even if we are unable to be there in person.

7.       Newsletter

We are putting the finishing touches on our first quarter newsletter for 2020. As soon as we have it finalized we will be sending it out, so keep an eye on your mail!

8.       Social Media

Just a quick plug to please follow us on our social media accounts! We have been gaining lots of new followers and engagement on social media and we post a lot of information there on grants, scholarships, and events in addition to lots of other updates and opportunities that might be beneficial to your entity or community that don’t make it to our website or our Board Update emails. If you have something that you’d like us to post, please send it our way and we will make sure to highlight it on both of our accounts.