The Kenai City Council approved a resolution last night that has three main functions relating to COVID-19 relief.
The first involves doubling the aid that Kenai commercial fishermen can receive, from $1,000 to $2,000. Applications for that relief program are available on the city of Kenai website and close Oct. 30. Permit holders who live within Kenai and who had at least $10,000 in landings on their 2019 permits are eligible to apply.
Commercial fisheries permit holders who already received $1,000 this summer will receive that second $1,000 this October, and do not need to apply again.
The second function of the resolution is to authorize the city to enter into an agreement with Peninsula Community Health Services, to provide counseling to those whose mental health has suffered during the pandemic.
Under the agreement, Kenai residents will be eligible to get six free sessions with PCHS. The program will cover residents’ out-of-pocket expenses for these services using Kenai CARES funds.
Any Kenai resident can access these services as long as they say their mental health has been affected by COVID-19. There is no income limit for participating in the program.
City Manager Paul Ostrander said the contract with PCHS has been negotiated and that PCHS will be rolling out those services shortly.
The third part of the resolution involves budget transfers to account for shifting financial relief needs. Ostrander said the city will scale up the amount of funds available in the rental assistance and mortgage relief account, from $400,000 to $1 million.
“We’ve all been surprised internally. When AHFC originally rolled this program out and made it available to city of Kenai residents back in August, there were 74 folks that applied and qualified for this grant program," he said. "We rolled it out again for September through December and the council approved that at the last meeting. We anticipated that we would receive a few more than that. But we received maybe 180 new applications beyond that, for a total of 254 applications, compared to 74.”
Not all of those who applied will be eligible for the grant. But Ostrander estimates $1 million will be necessary to cover the demand.
Those funds are being redirected from other relief programs and the First Responder and Incident Management Team payroll department. Ostrander said there is enough money in those accounts for now to allow for this transfer.