By Melinda Munson

The Finance Committee is working on a draft plan that would award funds to year-round food establishments and businesses with storefronts who commit to stay open four to five days per week this winter.

“The purpose of the grant is to maintain the year-round business community for Skagway, providing services to residents in hopes of keeping them both mentally and physically healthy during the long winter months in Skagway, Alaska,” the draft states.

Tier one businesses, which include restaurants and grocery stores, could each receive $25,000 if they remain open five days per week. Tier two businesses, which include retail, fuel, salons and bars, could be eligible for $6,500 per business if they remain open four days per week. 

The money to fund the Year-Round Business Grant Program would come from sales tax revenue, not from CARES funding.

“This is real money that we’re spending out of our bank,” said Assemblymember Jay Burnham.

The Skagway News testified during citizens present at the Sept. 9 special finance meeting that they should be included in tier two as they are an essential business and consider their office a storefront. In response, the Finance Committee later clarified that a storefront must be on street level. The Skagway News subleases the second floor of the Skaguay News Depot & Books.

Borough Manager Brad Ryan said he expects the term “storefront” will be clearly defined in the next draft.

To qualify for either tier one or tier two, businesses must have “maintained an open storefront” from November 2019 through March 2020, paid municipality sales tax during that time and commit to staying open from October 2020 through March 31, 2021. Restaurants are allowed a one month closure as long as another restaurant is open during that same timeframe.

Tier one businesses will not qualify for the year-round grant if they accept money from the earlier Small Business Grant Program, which will soon award between $1,000-$6,000 per qualified Skagway business, depending on the number of applicants. Tier two businesses are eligible for both municipality grants.

Steve Burnham, finance chair, suggested the possibility of creating a tier three later on, should there be any funds leftover.

The Finance Committee will meet again on Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. to further discuss the grant and plan to present the program at the next assembly meeting on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m.