Cities, borough get relief programs rolling

Jun 25, 2020

Credit CDC

The Kenai Peninsula Borough and the cities are getting their plans in place for distributing CARES Act funding to help with the impact of the coronavirus, with the goal of getting it out before the summer’s over.

When the federal government passed the CARES Act for coronavirus economic relief, the state of Alaska received all of it. The state would then pass it along to municipalities. Kenai was the first city on the peninsula to get a plan on the books and is getting its first round of checks in the mail this week. Larry Persily, a consultant working with the city on its CARES Act grant program, said 186 individuals applied for the initial phase, for a total of just over $2 million. The city council set aside $3 million for its grant program to businesses and nonprofits, so there’s a little left over in case the council wants to do more with it in the future.

The city of Kenai altogether got about $7.7 million in CARES Act funding, though about $2.5 million of it went to cover emergency responder and incident management payroll in the city, with about $1 million to be used for city projects to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and another approximately $900,000 that will be sent out as grants to nonprofits specifically to help individual households. Those last two parts are still in the works.

Soldotna City Council got a first look at the city’s plans for distributing its $7.4 million at its Wednesday night meeting. City Manager Stephanie Queen said the city is looking at doing a couple of grant phases for businesses and nonprofits, with about $1.5 million for businesses and $750,000 for nonprofits in each phase.

"This metrics is directly informed by those conversations," she said. "We had a lot of very productive feedback from folks, both in terms of maybe what the needs are now versus what the needs are later, into the fall and potentially into the winter."

About $275,000 would be set aside for direct relief to residents for rent relief, child care and the like. About $1.1 million of the city’s CARES funding would go to payroll and nonpayroll city expenses, with about $250,000 left over for unforeseen expenses, Queen said.

"And again, that’s because we can’t know what we don’t know," he said. "This whole experience has been a learning experience."

If all goes according to plan, Queen says the city hopes to have the plan before the council for approval at its July 8 meeting, with a goal of having applications open for about two weeks starting July 15. That’s just a few days after the Kenai Peninsula Borough is planning to start its program. The borough assembly approved a distribution plan at its June 16 meeting, with a target of July 13 as the first day for applications. The borough’s pot of CARES funding is significantly larger — about $37.5 million. The plan is to issue that to businesses and nonprofits in the borough outside the cities in three phases, with the largest phase first and two smaller phases following it.

More information will be available on the borough’s website, kpb.us.

The state is also sending out relief funding through the AK CARES Act, though there are some snags. The Legislature’s bill disqualifies businesses that had received federal PPP grants or economic impact disaster loans. The Legislature is debating how to fix that. Tim Dillon, the executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, is heading up the state program distribution on the peninsula.

As of Tuesday, there were 18 approved applications for state aid from peninsula businesses, representing six communities.

"I’m here to tell you that we’re getting our fair share," he said. "(There has been) $534,428 processed and put in local business accounts. The average was $29,690. We had Homer, Seward, Soldotna, Kasilof, Kenai and Sterling all reporting monies put into individual business accounts. Very, very positive news for us."

Dillon says Homer has rolled out its program, and Seward and Seldovia are working on theirs.

For more information on how to apply for state funding, check out KPEDD’s website kpedd.org.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@kdll.org.