Ketchikan city leaders have been told that a federal pandemic relief check is in the mail… almost. But first, Ketchikan’s City Council has to agree to take it.
The American Rescue Plan was the most recent COVID-19 relief bill, and it includes around $19.5 billion for relatively small towns like Ketchikan of less than 50,000 people.
Alaska’s share of that totals about $43.2 million. The state Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development is tasked with distributing that to each local government in line with federal rules.
How much cash is heading to each city? It’s not entirely clear. The commerce commissioner’s office did not return a phone call asking about each municipality’s allocation on Wednesday.
But U.S. Treasury Department guidance may help answer the question. Based on its population, Ketchikan’s city government would receive just shy of $2 million.
The resolution up for a council vote Thursday does not determine how the money would be spent. Assistant City Manager Lacey Simpson says in a memo that’ll come later.
The federal cash comes at a good time: With no cruise ships last year and a short season for 2021, Ketchikan’s city coffers are down millions in revenue. And unlike previous aid under programs like the CARES Act, the Treasury Department says the city can use the funding to backfill its budget.
That means it could go toward things like street maintenance, policing, substance abuse programs, utility projects and the like.
It could also go towards direct relief programs like rent and mortgage assistance for residents. The only thing the city can’t do is bank it.
In other business, city leaders are scheduled to consider a fourth agreement with a cruise line looking to come back to Ketchikan this summer. If approved, Royal Caribbean subsidiary Silversea Cruises would be the latest line to make a CDC-required agreement to allow its ships to return to Ketchikan’s cruise ship docks.
The city has signed agreements with two other Royal Caribbean lines, along with Carnival brands Holland America and Princess.
The city has said Norwegian Cruise Line, the third of the Big Three cruise lines, will not need to submit an agreement to the city. That’s because its vessels are planning to dock at a privately-owned dock in Ward Cove north of city limits.
A total of nine large ships are scheduled to visit Alaska this summer. The first voyage, a test cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas, is scheduled to arrive in Ketchikan next week — on July 9.
Ketchikan’s City Council meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Ted Ferry Civic Center. The meeting is broadcast on local cable channels, and the full agenda is available online. It’s also live-streamed on the city’s website and social media. Members of the public who would like to weigh in have an opportunity to speak at the beginning of the meeting.