The Yukon-Koyukuk Elder Assisted Living Facility (YKEALF) recently received substantial economic help as U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of U.S. Bank, and Travois New Markets, a Community Development Entity dedicated to investments in Indian Country, worked together to provide the facility with more than $2 million in New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) equity. The funding will allow for the installation of solar panels and the addition of a wood-based heating system at the new $7.8 million facility, provide capital for the purchase of medical supplies and equipment and create a reserve of capital to fund operations.
Five federally recognized Alaska Native tribes came together to build the facility in central Alaska: Nulato Tribe, Louden Tribe, Native Tribe of Koyukuk, Ruby Tribe and the Kaltag Tribe. The tribes needed a conveniently located facility for their elders, who otherwise would have to travel 150 miles to receive access to safe, affordable housing, a subsistence diet, medical care and quality assisted living services.
Because of the new facility, which moved in its first tenant in July, up to 11 elders can remain in their communities and receive top quality housing and health care. The construction phase provided 28 jobs, and once operational, the facility will employ nine full-time-equivalent employees.
“In every community and culture, it is important to keep the elderly close to family and friends,” said Lahka Peacock, an advisor to YKEALF and owner of Rural Development Group. “In remote Alaska Native villages, the importance is much higher. As cultural traditions, stories and language are slowly lost, keeping the elders close to their villages to share this information is a chance at keeping the traditions and language alive. The benefits of this facility are as important for the elderly as they are for the entire region.”
In addition to keeping the elders connected to their community, YKEALF will allow for interaction between generations. Community members will provide elders with food from fishing, hunting, trapping and gathering. Local students will adopt an elder, receive mentoring and help with housekeeping and kitchen duties. Elders will be able to pass on their knowledge and values by teaching cultural crafts and singing, sharing in potlatches and telling stories.
“The NMTC funds will allow the facility to get on its feet and remain operational with the installation of cost-saving renewable energy systems. With winter temperatures of 52 degrees below zero and close to the highest electrical costs in the nation, operating a facility like this is costly,” Peacock said. “With an abundance of wood in the area and 24 hours of daylight in the summer, YKEALF’s Council decided that the installation of a wood-burning boiler system and solar panels would be a smart decision, but the cost for the system was beyond its capacity. The New Markets Tax Credit financing from Travois New Markets and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation will make these cost-saving systems a reality.”
“Construction and energy costs are extremely high in rural Alaska,” said Phil Glynn, vice president of economic development for Travois. “Our NMTC financing will help YKEALF operate this critical facility in a financially and environmentally sustainable manner. We would like to thank Jason Evans of Financial Alaska and Alaska Growth Capital for connecting us to this project.”