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Assembly to vote on $15.4 million economic relief package for Anchorage

(Matt Leseman)
Published: Dec. 4, 2020 at 8:55 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly is set to vote on a resolution that would appropriate $15.4 million of the municipality’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds, as well as a small number of general funds, to go towards economic relief in response to the latest “hunker down” emergency order from Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson.

“What we’re attempting to do with this money is provide relief exactly as tightly into the hands of the individuals who are in the most dire need because of the hard decisions that have had to be made due to the public health conditions in our hospitals and the status of COVID in our community,” said Downtown Assembly Member Christopher Constant.

The resolution would send $7.4 million towards Anchorage’s rental and mortgage assistance program, as well as $6.4 to a grant program for businesses impacted by EO-16. One million dollars would go towards a voucher program to get necessities to those in need, and the remaining $600,000 would go to a program with the United Way and Alaska Hospitality Retailers to get meals to families in need.

“We’re … working with some of these restaurants that have effectively been shut down to create and provide meals for members of the community,” Constant said.

Every member of the body is sponsoring the resolution, making it a likely pass, but at a special meeting Friday, they were unable to take a vote because of procedural rules on assembly appropriations above $500,000.

“Our legal counsel advises the Assembly the Municipal Code requires a public hearing before the Assembly,” said Acting Assembly Chair Felix Rivera. “Only after the public hearing closes, can we vote on the resolution.”

Rivera went on to explain that because public hearings require advance notice, and the resolution was only announced the day before, the public hearing would need to be at a later date. That date was set for the Assembly’s next meeting on Dec. 8.

While there wasn’t a public hearing, the meeting still allowed for audience participation, during which two speakers argued this $15.4 million wouldn’t be enough relief. They blamed the current recession on COVID-19 restrictions as well as the municipality’s decisions on where to allocate earlier CARES Act funds.

“This reallocation of CARES Act funds is a day late, and a dollar short for many businesses,” said Louis Imbriani, an Anchorage resident. “The [situation] that we find ourselves in now is not caused by the virus, it is caused by the Assembly.”

Constant agreed in an interview Friday that this resolution would not be enough to help Anchorage fully recover from the economic damage of the pandemic and emergency orders, but argued that more federal relief would be necessary to help Anchorage, and the rest of the country, out of this recession.

“The whole country is in a position where our revenues from the CARES Act are getting to the end of what was available to us in the pandemic,” he said.

After public hearing on Dec. 8, the Assembly will have the opportunity to amend the resolution before putting it to a final vote.

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