Nome Citizens, Artisans, Businesses Can Apply for Utility Grants Through City

The City Council is exploring new ways to collect property and sales tax in Nome. Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM.

The City of Nome has allocated $2.7 million of its federal CARES Act funding. Half a million of that money is open to the community in the form of utility credits.

Nome’s City Council decided Tuesday night that small businesses, artisans, and individuals in Nome who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are able to apply for grants towards their utility bills. Small businesses can apply for $3,000 grants to go towards utilities while individuals and crafters can both apply for grants of $300.

Councilmember Jerald Brown put forward a motion Tuesday night to require local businesses to estimate how much revenue they lost during the pandemic, but the motion failed. Councilmember Jennifer Reader, who voted against the motion, said business owners and citizens will have to use their discretion as to whether their livelihood has been impacted.

“If your conscience will allow you to sign that form, then yes sir you will get $3,000. But let me tell you bad karma will haunt you for the rest of your life.”

– Councilmember Jennifer Reader
Councilmember Jennifer Reader takes notes during the citizens comments portions of a Nome City Council meeting in May. Photo from Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM (2020).

But Councilmember Brown’s concern was geared towards individuals who have been negatively impacted but don’t have utility bills in their name.

“Maybe it’s a multi-generation thing or maybe it’s just that they can’t afford their own place, so they’ve got a four-bedroom apartment but there’s four people in there. I don’t want those individuals to be left out of the program.”

– Councilmember Jerald Brown

For now, people in those situations will have to wait for more financial help depending on how Nome allocates the rest of their CARES Act funding. The City only allocated the first half, $2.7 million, of their total $5.6 million. That initial amount must be allocated or spent by July 31st or the funds will be forfeited.  

There are two more phases of distribution for CARES Act funding after the first phase, and Nome is currently considering spending about a third, $1.7 million, of their funding for community and business relief.

This current round of funding gives $600,000 to the Nome community in the way of utility grants; the Council did vote to allow that funding to be pro-rated if applications from the community exceed that amount. That means if the city has an overwhelming number of applicants, they will give less money to each applicant rather than deny someone the opportunity to receive the grant.

Nome will be using some, $724,015.40, of their CARES Act funding to cover staffing expenses and overtime related to the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to paying for upgrades for some of the city’s facilities.

Most notably, the ventilation and heating systems at the Nome Recreation Center need to be updated. As City Manager Glenn Steckman explained, those are acceptable and necessary because that is the community’s designated emergency shelter.

“Our utilities are 40 years old and they have reached [the end] of their useful life and it’s recommended, by your own city solicitor, that they need to be replaced.”

– City Manager Glenn Steckman

The grant application forms are not yet available on the city’s website, but manager for Nome Joint Utilities System (NJUS), and Interim Mayor, John Handeland explained that utility credits would likely be applied to customer’s bills after July 31st.

Deputy City Clerk Christine Piscoya swears in John Handeland as Interim Mayor for the City of Nome Tuesday night. Photo from Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM (2020).

Image at top: Generic NJUS utility bills and sales receipts for Nome residents. Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM file.