By Melinda Munson

The Skagway Borough Assembly completed its first reading of Ordinance 21-12 on Aug. 19. If passed, the legislation would reserve $1,200,000 of the $2M donated by Norwegian Cruise Lines for small business relief. 

The remaining funds have already been earmarked for other programs. Budget Ordinance 21-10, unanimously passed on July 1, gave $100,000 to the food bank, $200,000 to Skagway Traditional Council and $50,000 to Skagway Development Corporation’s utility relief program. 

Budget Ordinance 21-11, passed unanimously on Aug. 5, sets aside $150,000 in Unemployment Assistance for Skagway residents in December. 

The municipality plans to dedicate $150,000 towards Unemployment Assistance in January and February, under the 2022 fiscal budget, which accounts for the remaining $300,000 of the original $2M donation.

While Skagway’s new unemployment program, originally proposed by Assemblymember Reba Hylton, is funded at $150,000 for three months, details have not been drafted or approved. Borough Manager Brad Ryan estimates payments will be $1,200-$1,400 per person, “based on historical averages.”

 Two resolutions were put forward to facilitate distributing the $1,200,000 in business grants.

Assemblymember Sam Bass promoted Resolution 21-23R, which based payouts on gross revenue from 2019, 2020 and the first and second quarters of 2021. Bass said his goal was to have a program that got money to businesses quickly, and was “scalable.” For instance, a small tutoring business would not get as much assistance as a grocery store. 

A majority of the correspondence addressing 21-23R opposed the measure. 

George Butt of Klondike Electric Bicycles said the resolution “…would provide very little to no support for smaller and newer businesses in Skagway. Every business is important in Skagway, and leading up to now, the bulk of federal and state assistance has been targeted and dispersed to businesses with a large number of employees on payroll, and large gross receipts.”

Bass’ resolution failed five to one.

Assemblymember Deb Potter’s resolution, 21-24R, was approved by all six assembly members and requires the Finance Committee to craft a small business grant program which will then be presented for approval by the assembly of the whole. A special finance meeting is scheduled for Aug. 25 to discuss the matter.

“My impetus behind this was to kind of light a fire under it and get some action going, but in a way we can all participate in,” Potter said.

The second reading of Ordinance 21-12 is on the agenda for the Sept. 2 assembly meeting.