Perspectives on Business and Economics, Vol. 40

66 homes and smaller grants to install foundational gravel pads in Mertarvik as well as a $3.7M FEMA grant to address water and sewer projects. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development offers grants for imminent threat situations, which are made available with no need for competition among communities. Newtok received $1.4M directly through these Indian Community Development Block Grants. The BIA allocates funds for its Housing Improvement Program, through which in recent years, Newtok has been successfully granted a few hundred thousand dollars to provide new homes (Ristroph, 2021). The move to Mertarvik, when completed, is projected to cost more than $100M (Associated Press, 2020). Therefore, the tribe must obtain additional funding to cover remaining costs. As the pilot climate relocation in Alaska, Newtok presents an opportunity to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the process. Unfortunately, the process in place is inefficient and flawed. By reviewing the nature of these problems, it is hoped that a more effective system can be developed for future relocations. The Players Involved in Funding Access to funding is essential to streamline the climigration process. Currently, villages must finance relocation by piecing together grants from several organizations, including the Denali Commission, BIA, FEMA, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (specifically, their National Coastal Resilience Fund grants), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Navigating between potential funding sources poses challenges for villages attempting to relocate. The first player of note is the Denali Commission, an independent federal agency designed to “c​ oordinate assistance for rural Alaskan communities in their efforts to become more resilient” (Denali Commission, 2019). Citing climate change concerns, in 2015, the Obama administration incorporated relocation efforts into the Denali Commission. As a result, the Commission’s Village Infrastructure Protection (VIP) program was implemented to support 31 at-risk communities, as identified by a GAO report (2009). From 2016 to 2020, the Denali Commission utilized its discretionary funding for VIP-related projects to invest almost $40M (Denali Commission, 2020). However, according to one analysis, “$50-100 million per year represents a reasonable projection of costs to protect infrastructure threatened by erosion and move communities to safer ground” (Berman & Schmidt, 2019). Clearly, this $40M allocation is woefully inadequate. In 2019, the BIA established a program focused on supporting Alaska Native tribal villages facing relocation through their Tribal Climate Resilience grants, a program that has assisted 15 Alaska Native villages by making available $13.4M to support efforts in climate adaptation planning, coastal management planning, managed retreat, and relocation (BIA, 2021). FEMA does not directly fund village relocation. Rather, their funds “can be used for eligible protect-in-place projects (i.e., against storm surges) and for the acquisition and demolition or relocation of individual homes out of floodplains after a disaster” (Adapt Alaska, 2021b). Applications submitted to FEMA must be crafted to fit those requirements. The gravity of the climate change threat was finally recognized with the passage of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November 2021. The act provides $43.2M a year from 2022 to 2026 for “tribal climate resilience, adaptation, and community relocation planning, design, and implementation of projects.” Of the total $216M, $130M is reserved for community relocation and $86M for tribal climate resilience and adaptation (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021). However, with relocation requiring $100M per year, even this initiative by itself falls short. Notwithstanding these initiatives, Alaska continues to struggle to obtain federal monies. Alaska has been “vying for a slice of nearly $1 billion in grants to be awarded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development” (Associated Press, 2015) but has been unsuccessful obtaining funds from these types of National Disaster Resilience programs. Funding sources tend to focus on more dramatic manifestations of climate change, such as increasingly powerful hurricanes. Alaska’s less sensational environmental threat causes the state to be overlooked; however, Alaska is no less deserving of assistance. Without funds, a way of life will be lost.