The City of Nome is debating how to spend $5.6 million in CARES Act funding and some Nome business owners think some of that money should go towards helping small businesses and boosting the local economy.
Last week, the Nome City Council met in a work session to discuss with the public how that money should be spent.
City Manager Glenn Steckman is concerned that after the pandemic, grants and federal money will be harder to come by in the upcoming fiscal years. He points out that there are many upgrades that city buildings need to be safer and more prepared for the pandemic.
“Obviously having a Rec Center that really is an emergency shelter would be nice. We just took a delivery of twenty cots because we didn’t have cots if we did need to shelter any of our residents. The ventilation system is 40 years old or plus, but these are safety issues not only for our staff and people using the buildings but for sheltering folks.”
The City discussed a rough “wish list” of items they could use CARES Act funding on which included paying staff for coronavirus-related overtime expenses and options for social distance communications, like cameras and equipment for teleconferencing. They’re even considering replacing fabric chairs for public meetings in favor of plastic ones that can be sanitized.
The original list included just over $300,000 in community stimulus. But Nome hotel owner Judy Martinson says she’s struggling. Virus-related travel fears along with state and local travel restrictions, have essentially closed down the tourism season.
“When you need 100% in June, and you need 100% in the last part of March and you need 100% in July, you can see we’re not going to make it. We need some help and this is not enough.”
Martinson and other business owners have pointed out that they aren’t getting the help they need or thought they would get through programs like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).
The City has not yet finalized how they will spend their CARES Act funding but will meet in another work session to hear from the public. That meeting will be held at 5:30 PM at City Hall in Nome.
Image at Top: Nome’s main thoroughfare, Front Street, May 2013. Photo: David Dodman, used with permission.