The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly met Monday night to discuss allocating more federal pandemic dollars to local businesses and organizations.

Under the current program a business must provide proof of sales within the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and show a year-round presence in the Borough to qualify for a COVID-19 business impact grant.

Some of Ketchikan’s fishermen objected to a requirement that they provide proof of sales in the borough, as they fish throughout the region. Susan Doherty, executive director of the Southeast Alaska Seiners Association, was among 10 people to address the Assembly on this issue. She says fishermen hoped to tap into CARES Act funds through the borough as they’ve been left out of other relief schemes.

“I look forward to working with you all and coming up with a solution to include the fishermen businesses that reside here year round, that contribute to local taxes, buy things here, have houses here, pay for everything else the locals do.”

Borough Attorney Glenn Brown says when the program was set up, sales tax filings were used to establish a year-round presence and residency. Commercial fisheries don’t fit the sales tax model as most don’t have a brick-and-mortar presence.

“Can you fix that by looking at landing tickets outside of the borough, looking at other indicia of how you determine that they are here, they’re Ketchikan businesses. And just like some of them said, ‘That money that I make I bring back into the borough and spend it in the borough.’ Those are the businesses we’re trying to preserve with CARES Act money.”        

In addition to commercial fisheries, other businesses mentioned as being excluded are engineering and construction firms that often do contract work in other communities.  Borough Finance Director Cynna Gubatayao said if the assembly wants to include other businesses, staff would work out details that meet CARES Act requirements.

“But I cannot guarantee that any business that has been here tonight or that has already submitted applications will automatically be eligible. There are other criteria that go with the program based on the loss of revenue and that kind of thing.”

The assembly asked borough staff to look at expanding CARES Act grant funding eligibility to more types of local businesses

In other action, the Assembly approved a 3% cost of living adjustment for all non-union borough employees.  A public hearing is scheduled for November 16th to amend the budget by appropriating an additional $116,000 to fund the pay raises.

Also Monday night, the assembly approved $350,000 in funding for 19 local non-profits — including the organization that owns and operates this public radio station.  The Borough Grant Committee met on October 16th to consider CARES Act round-two non-profit grants and submitted the list to the Assembly for approval. The committee recommended funding for all but five applicants citing insufficient information on the applications. The funds were approved by the Assembly without discussion.