Gretchen Wehmhoff

After hours of public testimony and committee meetings, the Assembly voted 6-0 to approve a plan to help  Skagway residents get through the winter.

Dozens of residents testified and more wrote letters with their ideas, concerns and preferences as to how Skagway should spend the $7.4 million CARES Act funds designated for municipal relief by the State of Alaska. 

Resolution 20-22R will distribute CARES Act funds to year-round residents who have lived in the municipality as of June 4, 2020 or before.  Each resident, adult and child, will receive $1,000 per month.  

Residents will need two forms of proof of residence issued on or before June 4, 2020. The application process will be finalized and announced by the administration.

 The resolution includes a monthly per person funding cap which may be adjusted by the administration depending on the availability of funds.

Money will be paid to Skagway in increments. The first increment of $2.9 million was received June 2. MOS must use 80 percent of that amount towards COVID-19 related emergency economic stimulus and assistance before the next increment is delivered

Funds must be spent by Dec. 31, 2020 and unused monies will be returned to the state and potentially the federal government.

Another $1.9 million in Commercial Passenger Vessel (CPV) funding may be available in grant format. Borough Manager Brad Ryan hopes to utilize that to extend assistance beyond December.

The Borough Finance Committee held two special meetings as well as their regular meeting to work through the plan offered by Ryan and his staff. Each meeting drew more testimony and correspondence than the last. Amendments with sliding scales, more stringent dates and differing payment amounts were presented. In the end, the assembly passed a version of the original plan.

Treasurer Heather Rodig, who has been working on the project and the application process, said the turnout and involvement over the week was more than she has seen in the recent past. She was glad to see the community become so involved.

According to Ryan, the MOS is looking at a loss of about $160 million in taxable revenue for the 2020 tourist season. He ascertains that loss will impact every person in Skagway.

The town has already been adding up costs for emergency response and preparation due to the threat of COVID-19.  Ryan says MOS has spent approximately $450,000 on supplies, plexiglass windows, new ventilators for the clinic and other preparations. He expects that amount to top $600,000.

Ryan anticipates about $300,000 is needed for  MOS audio/visual improvments. This will most likely include hiring a contractor to help create a new system for the chambers and staff.