Anchorage Assembly reviews American Rescue Plan funds

Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 9:53 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly had a full slate at their Aug. 9 meeting with two big items on the agenda.

Assembly members took their time to listen to public comment, as well as discuss critical items that could impact all Anchorage residents, as well as some recent controversy.

Up for discussion was the question on how to disperse $52 million as part of the American Rescue Plan. So far, $3.4 million have been disbursed from the ARP funds. Assembly members say it is a robust public process and they have received 200 applicants so far. Some factors their final decision will be based off of include economic development, increasing housing in the municipality, and supporting youth.

Anchorage residents showed up by the dozens to give their opinion on where they would like to see the funds go. Ideas from those in attendance included bringing the Sullivan Arena back to operational standards, helping the homeless crisis, and fixing the housing issue.

The agenda originally was set to discuss a ballot proposition for voters to increase property tax exemption. To assist residents who may be struggling, they can currently apply for a property tax exemption. Right now that number is up to $50,000, and the vote could potentially increase it to $75,000. Anchorage assembly member Felix Rivera made a comment on the proposed ballot Tuesday afternoon.

“We have heard a lot of residents, and particularly seniors, be concerned about property tax. They have a fixed income and with property taxes going up there’s only so much that you can do with a fixed income so hopefully this will help alleviate some of that burden,” Rivera said.

However, this item was moved to be discussed at the Sept. 13 meeting.

What stood out at the meeting involved recent controversy over the Anchorage Health Department Director. Joe Gerace’s resignation was tendered Monday, after it was discovered he may have lied about key factors on his resume. Assembly chair Chris Constant and Mayor Dave Bronson addressed the issue.

“I would like to remind the public that the hiring process used to hire Mr. Gerace was a long-standing practice used for decades. Nothing has been changed and we are about to change that,” Bronson said.

“While I applaud the mayor and municipal manager for conducting an investigation on this issue internal to the administration, the assembly must pursue our own and provide due diligence because we have been failed,” Constant said. “The citizens of Anchorage deserve scrutiny and attention to detail in appointments to our city’s leadership positions. There’s nothing wrong with being very thorough in vetting.”

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