City Council Votes to Wait on Distributing CARES Act Funds to Local Businesses
Nome’s City Council approved two out of three business items on its agenda last night. But the five present council members decided to postpone voting on a final resolution to distribute $750,000 in CARES Act funding to local businesses and non-profits.
The ordinance designed to extend Nome’s emergency order through the end of 2020 passed unanimously, but not before the wording was tweaked a little. Based on what a few council members described as human error, one line was missing from the document while another on limiting the sale of alcohol was inadvertently added in.
Councilmember Jennifer Reader proposed removing line D, which authorized the suspension of alcohol sales, and then Councilmember Jerald Brown suggested replacing it with a new line D to correct these issues.
“So letter ‘D’ would be ‘control ingress to and egress from an affected area, the movement of persons within the area and the occupancy of premises in it.”– Councilmember Jerald Brown
This ordinance supersedes the current temporary emergency order passed during the last regular meeting earlier this month. And with the wording changes, it now contains the same authorities as the previous order and will be in effect until December 31st. However, this permanent ordinance can be rescinded earlier if Governor Mike Dunleavy removes the state’s public health disaster emergency.
This permanent ordinance also references the new travel form, which is included below:City-of-Nome-Travel-Form-Updated
Last night, the council also unanimously passed a resolution to update the city’s phone system. City Manager Glenn Steckman explains that this will only affect city buildings’ phone and audio capabilities, it does not affect the tv broadcast for regular meetings.
“The staff felt that, and it’s in your package, that our phone system was really on the verge of extinction and failure. This is [one of] a number of the issues that we have brought up with our Information Technology and communications. So, we do have a price from NAPCO. We can move forward and get this installed in a fairly rapid process.”– City Manager Glenn Steckman
Roughly $115,000 of Nome’s CARES Act funding will be used to purchase this new phone system.
In terms of spending the rest of their federal money, the Nome City Council was torn over how to best get those funds into the hands of local businesses.
The way the ordinance was originally written sought to provide a set amount of grant funding to those who had certain levels of revenue in 2019. For example, a business who reported between $300,000 and 450,000 last year could receive a grant worth $10,500.
Councilmember Brown felt that wouldn’t route the money where it was needed most, so he proposed divvying up the funding based on individual businesses’ needs and take into account COVID-19’s impact on their total net income.
“Under my proposal, it would be pro-rated…it would be given out as a percentage of the actual impact. So, a business that was impacted greatly, such as a business in tourism, would get a larger benefit because they had a larger impact.”– Councilmember Jerald Brown
Brown was the only one to vote in favor of his amendment.
The council continued to debate the issue in circles until Councilmember Mark Johnson suggested pushing back the vote to give more time for the Nome business community to weigh in.
Earlier in the evening, during the work session, Councilmember Adam Martinson had expressed his support for that idea as well but pointed out that local businesses need those relief funds now.
“I know that’s going to take more time, and I thought that was the point was to try to get this out and get money to businesses. But I know some businesses obviously need more than others, so I’d be interested in seeing how that would work.”– Councilmember Adam Martinson
City Manager Steckman added that if the council was in favor of holding off, then city staff would like to take a closer look at the COVID-19 impact and how the loss of the seasonal sales tax has affected total revenue for the variety of businesses in town.
“Just doing a quick sampling, some businesses have done very well. Other businesses have had their legs chopped off at their knee. And I would like to at least be able to say ‘okay, the hospital industry has been hit this way, the restaurant industry has been hit this way.’ Obviously we won’t have the churches, and we really don’t even have the fishing industry.”
Ultimately the Nome City Council postponed their vote on this ordinance until next week. Their plan is to hold a work session and special meeting on August 6th, a week from Thursday, to continue the discussion on CARES Act funds for local businesses.
If the timing works out, the council estimates they’ll be able to start accepting funding applications from Nome business owners by August 10th, the day of their next regular meeting.
Image at top: Nome’s City Clerk Bryant Hammond and City Manager Glenn Steckman wear face masks during a recent regular Nome City Council meeting. Photo from Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM (2020).