By Melinda Munson
The Borough Assembly unanimously passed three resolutions on Oct. 1 which award up to $335,000 to certain year-round, local businesses. The money to fund the grants will come from municipality sales tax.
The resolutions comprise Skagway Normal Operations for Wintertime (SNOW), designed to help essential businesses “maintain their traditional presence in the community” despite the financial losses of COVID-19.
The original version of the program was voted down in the Sept.19 assembly meeting over disagreement of whether fuels stations, newspapers and salons, which might not have a traditional storefront, should be included.
In the updated legislation, eligible businesses were separated into three tiers with three separate resolutions: restaurant and grocery; retail; fuel stations, newspapers and salons. Any money not claimed from each of the categories will remain in the municipality and will not drop down to the next tier as previously planned.
Assemblymember Steve Burnham was reluctant to vote for the third resolution granting money to specific businesses with no storefronts.
“It’s just more money we’re pulling out of the magic bag that isn’t filling itself any more,” he said.
“I don’t know that (an) additional $35,000 right here at the moment is going to crush the community for years to come,” Mayor Andrew Cremata responded.
Burnham eventually voted yes on the last resolution, jesting that he cast an aye vote because “Mavis said I should.”
During citizens present, Skagway matriarch Mavis Henricksen testified in support of The Skagway News and Alaskan Fairytales.
Resolution 20-40R covers tier one businesses — year-round grocery stores and restaurants. Businesses in this category may receive a maximum of $25,000, with a total program funding of $150,000. To qualify, tier one businesses must be open five days a week from October 2020 to March 31, 2021.
Resolution 20-41R funds year-round retail establishments, tier two, up to $6,500 per business with a maximum program funding of $150,000. Tier two businesses must commit to opening four days per week from October 2020 to March 31, 2021 with a minimum of two hours per day.
Resolution 20-42R, tier three, includes year-round fuel providers, newspapers and salons. There is no storefront requirement. Businesses in this category may receive up to $5,000 with the program capped at $35,000. Tier three businesses are required to be open four days per week from Nov. 15, 2020 to April 15, 20201.
A one month closure is permitted for all businesses. Payments to approved establishments will be made monthly from October 2020 to April 2021 if businesses are in compliance with municipality requirements.
To be eligible for SNOW, tier one and two businesses must have kept an open storefront from November 2019 to March 2020. Tier three businesses must have been open but the storefront requirement is waived. All businesses must have paid municipal taxes in the fourth quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020.
Billi and Greg Clem, owners of Alaskan Fairytales, a year-round art and gift shop in operation since 2005, do not meet the open storefront requirement. The Clem’s lease with the National Park Service (NPS) ended on Sept. 30, 2019. The lease was renewed in April 2020, but the Clems were forced to vacate their shop while NPS renovated the building.
The Clems brought their situation to the attention of the Finance Committee on Sept. 30, stating that if they got the funds, they would hire part-time help. After realizing the SNOW program was paid out of city money, the Clems decided not to pursue the grant.
“Those that are thinking about applying, but it’s not make or break for the winter, should think about not taking the money from the city coffers,” Greg Clem said. Clem hopes the funds will go to the businesses most at risk.
Businesses who accept SNOW funding agree to “require employees to wear cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth at all times when indoors, and outdoors when six-foot distancing is not possible.”
All businesses who qualify can accept funding from both SNOW and the earlier Small Business Emergency Grant Program passed Aug. 6. The deadline for SNOW applications is 4:59 p.m. on Oct. 9. Appeals must be filed by 4:59 p.m. on Oct. 14.
Editor’s note: The Skagway News advocated to be included in the SNOW grant program. As originally written, the newspaper would not have qualified.