Ketchikan City Council members will debate how to best spend roughly the first half of a $12.2 million federal coronavirus relief package at a special meeting Thursday.
City officials have sketched out a few ideas for the first round of CARES Act funding, $5.9 million in total. The proposal directs the full amount to local residents, businesses and nonprofits. City officials say they’ll handle reimbursing the city for its expenses via the Federal Emergency Management Agency and through future rounds of CARES Act funding.
Nearly $2.5 million in the draft plan would go towards small business assistance — and there are a couple ways to do it. One would be to sign onto a plan being worked out by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.
Broadly, that would issue grants to businesses affected by the pandemic. The extent of COVID-19’s impact will be assessed via gross sales reported as part of a business’s sales tax filings. And those grants, which borough officials say could range from $2,500 to $25,000, likely won’t come with strings attached — businesses can use the funds as they see fit.
Another idea for the $2.5 million in small business assistance is to make targeted grants for specific expenses like mortgage or rent payments, or the cost of refitting a business to comply with recommendations from health officials. But city officials warn that a targeted program would take more time to administer and likely couldn’t be outsourced to the borough.
A $1.4 million utility relief proposal also mirrors the borough’s approach. More than half of that, $792,000, would be dedicated to business customers. Ketchikan’s borough assembly approved $1 million in utility relief on Monday, though it didn’t distinguish between residential and business customers.
The borough’s finance director said Monday that the city-owned electric provider, Ketchikan Public Utilities, would be the most effective way to ensure everyone in the Ketchikan area sees some relief. City and borough leaders have scheduled a meeting Friday to discuss specifics.
Another $1 million under the draft plan would be set aside for housing assistance — mortgage or rent relief for residents, rather than businesses. The draft plan doesn’t get into specifics, but the program is intended to help residents avoid evictions or foreclosures — and thus prevent people from losing their place to live.
Another $300,000 would go towards moorage assistance — helping offset the cost of keeping a boat in Ketchikan. Officials say that’s roughly 30% of the annual billings for reserved moorage at the city’s harbors.
Nonprofits serving seniors and the homeless, in addition to food distribution programs, would get $350,000.
And finally, $350,000 under the draft plan would go towards child care assistance for working families. It’s not yet clear what school will look like in the fall, but remote learning will likely have a big role. That means more residents could need child care. City officials also suggest offering direct grants to daycare providers.
Ketchikan’s city council meets at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Ted Ferry Civic Center. Residents can offer testimony at the beginning of the meeting or email comments to the clerk’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article has been updated to correct the start time of Thursday’s meeting.