By Melinda Munson

Skagway’s assembly voted Aug. 20 to waive commercial utility fees from Oct. 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021 to “mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the financial stability of Skagway businesses.” 

Resolution 20-33R passed unanimously and forgives sewer, water and garbage fees for commercial properties, totalling approximately $82,350.

“It’s a very innovative way of helping the year-round businesses here,” said Mayor Andrew Cremata.

Originally, Resolution 20-32R, the town’s small business grant program, proposed to give businesses an extra $250 for each part-time winter employee and $500 for each full-time winter employee. When more people than expected applied for the monthly $1,0000 CARES payments, the business program was awarded $1 million, significantly less than the Skagway Development Corporation’s $2.5 million request.

The business grant program, passed on Aug. 6, will award a range of $1,000 to $6,000 to local businesses, depending on the number of applicants, with no per employee payments.

The deletion of the per employee payments was a disappointment to owners who run their businesses at a loss during the off-season.

“Our shoulders can only hold so much,” said Beth Smith, owner of three businesses that continue operating in the winter. “Businesses are taking the brunt of this burden,” she said.

In response to business owner feedback, Borough Manager Brad Ryan suggested the utility waiver as a way to compensate businesses for the loss of the proposed per employee funding. 

Resolution 20-33R can be found here.