Ketchikan’s Borough Assembly approved more money for nonprofits and housing relief from federal coronavirus relief funding through the CARES Act at its meeting last Monday.
The assembly voted to set aside more than $500,000 in rent and mortgage relief for residents who live outside Ketchikan and Saxman city limits. Finance director Cynna Gubatayao said this allocation fills a gap left by the two cities’ housing relief programs.
“We’d left out residents that lived outside the two cities so Saxman has a residential program, the city of Ketchikan has a residential program, this then extends those programs, a very similar program to non-area wide residents,” she said.
The assembly also added more than $100,000 to its nonprofit grant program for a total of over $300,000. That means the borough will be able to fully fund all 21 nonprofits’ requests for grants, including one from Rainbird Community Broadcasting, Inc., which owns and operates this station.
That leaves more than $4 million in federal funds that the borough must spend before the end of the year.
The assembly spent much of a planned work session discussing ways to help business owners that didn’t qualify for other business aid programs. At the start of the meeting, business owner Spring Barry spoke about the roadblocks to funding for businesses that opened their doors right before the pandemic hit.
“I still fall outside your standard guidelines for a small business or even a micro-business, so therefore I’m not eligible for any relief, and I know I’m not the only one,” she said.
The assembly later voted to study ways to allocate funds to businesses that do not fit the current guidelines for grants. Officials’ recommendations will likely come back for a vote at a future meeting.
The assembly also took the first steps toward potentially allocating roughly $250,000 for the school district. School district superintendent Beth Lougee told the assembly she anticipated increased costs this year for things like cleaning supplies, technology for distance learning and additional building space to accommodate social distancing requirements.
Also in the work session, members raised concerns from constituents and ideas about funding for child care, trail maintenance and testing for in-state travel.
The assembly also passed an ordinance allowing the Alaska Remote Seller Sales Tax Commission to collect sales tax for online sales on the borough’s behalf. Though some retailers, like Amazon, already collect sales tax on online purchases, the assembly’s move is forecast to bring in between $400,000 and $1 million in additional tax revenue.