By Melinda Munson
June 19 is an important day for Skagwegians. It’s the last day residents can apply for the Emergency Assistance and Economic Stimulus Program June payment.
Skagway will receive a total of $7.4 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) to help offset the loss of the 2020 cruise season which will leave most Skagwegians without employment until at least the 2021 tourist season.
Resolution 20-22R, passed by the Assembly on June 4, gives the Municipality authority to distribute $1,000 each month (through December) to each Skagway resident, regardless of age, who can prove they were permanent residents on or before June 4.
“The purpose of the program is to assist residents with the means to meet financial obligations and remain in Skagway through the upcoming winter,” the application states.
The application, which can be found at www.skagway.org under the government/forms tab, is two pages long and must be submitted monthly. The deadline for June is Friday the 19th with checks being issued on June 26. Applications for all subsequent months will be due on the 10th with payments starting on the 15th.
Residents have to document how the CARES money has been spent with receipts and invoices or bills showing a current amount due.
Qualified expenses include housing, utilities, groceries, miscellaneous household needs and insurance, as well as spending that stimulates the local economy — such as eating out.
Property taxes, Municipal utilities and marijuana products (illegal under federal law) do not qualify for reimbursement.
Debt repayments such as car loans and credit card payments will be approved on a case-by-case basis by the new program administrator, Raniyah Bakr (firstname.lastname@example.org).
“We’re coming from a place of yes,” said Borough Treasurer Heather Rodig, adding that the Municipality’s goal is to help each household qualify for the maximum amount allowed.
However, the Municipality must be careful that payments are used appropriately with sufficient documentation so they don’t have to pay any of the CARES money back to the federal government.
Rodig encourages residents to contact Bakr if they need assistance or have questions specific to their situation.
“Any question is a good question,” Rodig stressed.
Appeals will be handled by Borough Manager Brad Ryan, who will respond within five days.
Those hoping to use their CARES money to bolster their business should be cautious. The Municipality is planning financial help for local businesses. Residents who use the household payments for business expenses won’t be able to later claim those business expenses, explained Rodig, as there is no “double dipping.”
City Hall is not offering advice for how CARES funds will affect taxable income. The application states, “While many sources seem to indicate that qualified disaster relief payments are not taxable income, it is recommended that you are certain this is the case for your individual situation…” More information can be found in IRS Publication 525, page 28.
Rodig reminded residents that City Hall is open by appointment only. Printed applications are posted on the downstairs bulletin board. All completed paperwork can be placed in the dropbox outside the entrance to City Hall.
Kelly Jennings, who works at the hardware store and has two children, lost a large portion of her family’s yearly income when her husband had to suspend his tour company for the season. She was relieved when the Assembly passed Resolution 20-22R.
“This is how we will afford to stay in our beautiful town,” Jennings said. “I am beyond grateful.”