Redefining What Is Possible

220513 AHFC DONALD GOTCHAL KLB 8597   Medium

Donald Gotchal had no idea what to expect when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the world in early 2020.

“Once March 2020 happened, we all got sent home,” he said. “No one knew what to do.”

Donald had been working for Alaska Housing in the planning department for less than two years. He had no way of knowing he would soon play a critical role in finding innovative ways to address housing challenges caused by the financial impact of the pandemic.

Rent Relief for Alaskans

In January 2021, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the launch of the $25 billion Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The goal of ERAP was to assist households unable to pay rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alaska Housing quickly got to work, creating a new program from scratch – Alaska Housing Rent Relief. As U.S. Treasury guidelines changed and new information came in, the AHFC team often had to adjust their plans. While it felt like “we were building a plane while it was flying,” with changes occurring in real time, it forced AHFC to create a brand new type of process, find efficiencies, utilize technology effectively and innovate.

One of the most important parts of that equation is using data in the planning and evaluation process – a specialty Donald brought to the table. Data allowed the AHFC team to quickly determine who was eligible for Rent Relief and disperse the federal funds to keep Alaskans safely housed. Ultimately, more than $262 million was distributed, assisting nearly 66,500 individuals statewide.

“I think it’s going to have fundamental changes to how we think about planning and developing programs.”

– Donald Gotchal, Manager of Research and Service Programs, AHFC

Helping Homeowners

AHFC received a second opportunity to develop innovative programs in early 2022 when U.S. Treasury launched the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act. HAF provided $9.9 billion to support homeowners facing financial hardship associated with COVID-19.

Lessons learned from Rent Relief informed the development of Alaska Housing Homeowner Assistance. A year after it began, more than $35 million in federal funds had been distributed to benefit 22,000 individual Alaska homeowners.

Innovative Approach to Addressing Homelessness

Alaska Housing’s drive to develop innovative solutions led to the creation of another new program that sought to provide short- and long-term housing stabilization for Alaska’s homeless population.

Alaska Housing Stabilization and Recovery utilizes federal funds remaining from Emergency Rental Assistance to get people off the streets and into stabilized housing. Data has driven much of that work in setting the program up, but also to determine its effectiveness. In its first year, nearly 2,000 households had been enrolled in the program.

“Using data allows us to be more efficient, but also analyze where the money is being spent. It shows us where we need to focus our efforts and where funds are doing the most amount of good.”

Data-Driven Solutions

The combination of data analysis and finding solutions to help others is at the core of why Donald enjoys his work with Alaska Housing.

He knew he was interested in a data and finance career while studying for his bachelor’s in business administration at the University of Nevada, Reno. While he started with a focus in personal finance he soon became interested in housing, with a particular focus on housing insecurity.

Challenging but Gratifying

When he moved to Alaska with his wife, an opportunity came up at AHFC and he saw an opportunity to combine those interests. Four years later he’s had incredible opportunities to directly make a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of people.

“We have been presented with particular problems and asked to come up with novel solutions,” Donald said. “While it was challenging, what made it worthwhile was seeing the impact of the work we were doing. Getting that financial assistance out so efficiently and effectively was very gratifying.”

Want to join an inspiring team making a difference in people’s lives? AHFC is the right place for you. See our available jobs and come join our team.