Assembly to vote on CARES Act money redistribution

The Anchorage Assembly meets in the Assembly chambers at the Loussac Library on Aug. 27, 2020.
The Anchorage Assembly meets in the Assembly chambers at the Loussac Library on Aug. 27, 2020.(KTUU)
Published: Sep. 28, 2020 at 10:22 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly is getting ready to vote on an ordinance that would reappropriate much of the city’s $156 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds. The expected action comes after a meeting between city officials and the U.S. Department of Treasury.

The biggest change is that money originally planned to go towards several items on the original CARES Act plan would instead go towards first responder payroll.

“That ultimately frees up kind of your local general government dollars to be used as any normal general government dollars would be,” said Anchorage Chief of Staff Jason Bockenstedt.

Bockenstedt said that was the recommendation from U.S. Treasury officials and pointed to a guidance document released shortly after the meeting that reinforces the idea. Those unlocked general funds would then fund the projects the CARES Act money was set to do previously.

“We made no changes to the dollar amounts or the items that were already approved by the assembly,” Bockenstedt. “We are simply just doing this as an administratively convenient way to account for the CARES Act funds.”

But many of those items were flagged during the original process as needing to wait for the treasury conversation, some because it was unclear if the plan met the treasury’s guidelines, others because there were concerns the money would not be entirely used by Dec. 30, the CARES Act’s deadline.

Assembly member Jamie Allard was critical of many of those items, including the proposal to buy several properties for homeless services. At an assembly work session Friday, Allard argued those items still hadn’t been approved and were simply being funded through a loophole.

“If they’re so legitimate, and it’s benefiting the community, then we should be taking these straight out of the [Coronavirus Relief Funds],” Allard said.

But Bockenstedt and the rest of the administration disagree with that, saying that it was the treasury’s suggestion as the easiest way to make sure the funds are appropriately used.

“At no point in speaking to treasury did we get the idea that some of these programs are outside the scope of what is necessary for the people of Anchorage to respond to COVID-19,” said Municipal Attorney Kate Vogel.

The ordinance can still be amended by the assembly after public comment at Tuesday’s meeting, after which it can go to a vote.

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