WASILLA — Members of the Wasilla City Council expressed interest in continuing to disburse CARES act funding to the residents of Wasilla at their meeting on Jan. 11.
After much discussion about specific programs available to citizens of Wasilla through the CARES act, council members agreed to continue the discussion at the next regular council meeting on Jan. 25 in an effort to provide a fifth phase of CARES act funding through the city of Wasilla.
“I opened city buildings back up with strict mitigation plans. You will be required to wear a mask coming in and it will depend on the numbers as to how long they will stay open and as far as the Menard center is concerned because Ms. Klapperich has done a really good job on mitigation plans, every team that comes in to the ice or whatever they have to have mitigation plans and they have to be approved so that we can do the very best that we have to make sure that people are wearing masks that they are staying six feet apart and so that way we keep the numbers down because as the numbers stay down we stay open. If the numbers get to be on a rise again then we will have to take that under consideration about closing the buildings again,” said Mayor Glenda Ledford.
To date, there have been 4,847 cases of COVID-19 among Wasilla residents with 18 newly reported cases. However, Deputy Administrator Lyn Carden noted that those numbers are not representative of the cases inside of Wasilla city limits.
“The numbers that are representative for Wasilla are actually five zip codes and 70,000 individuals, which is far greater than just Wasilla proper. So those numbers are not able to be broke out and provided to us that is just Wasilla proper. That is not the option that the state has chosen when it comes to Wasilla,” said Carden.
After Wasilla provided four phases of relief to small business and Personal Protective Equipment grants to citizens, nearly $8.7 million has been distributed to Wasilla residents through the CARES programs. The deadline to distribute CARES funds was extended to Dec. 31.
“We keep talking about the city but we don’t talk about the people in the city. So what kind of effort is the administration making to help the people in the city,” said Councilman Tim Burney. “We have how many people that live in this city and a lot of them need help so put the businesses aside, what are we doing for the people that live here. We haven’t done much. We haven’t done much mayor.”
Wasilla Finance Director Troy Tankersly detailed the monies that had been distributed by the city of Wasilla, which spent the first tier of $8.2 million and has received the second tier of $5.2 million. However, less than 10 percent of the second tier funding has been distributed, though Tankersly noted that much would likely be used in city resiliency. Another $5 million in CARES funds are still available to the city of Wasilla.
“Realize what the parameters of this CARES act really entails. It don’t really allow to just to the people. It allows to the small businesses. In fact, it’s the small business CARES act and the city took it a step farther with the PPE’s,” said Ledford. “We cannot give them like a dividend and so I personally think that we as a city did the very best we could within the parameters of what the federal government, the treasury set down for us to do because they will come in and audit, and for every dime that you did not stay within that parameters.You have to pay back and you know as well as I do when it’s Federal government, you’re going to be paying penalties interest and everything else so it’s not fair to do something that knowingly we’re going to have to pay back and put it on the backs of the citizens of this city.”
Tankersly detailed that $2.533 million had been distributed to small businesses. Wasilla gave $760,000 in personal protective equipment grants, and $720,000 to the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation for housing relief, which was paid out to banks and landlords rather than Wasilla residents themselves. Additionally, $50,000 was given to Enstar and Matanuska Electric Association for utility relief. Council Member Simon Brown II asked that Tankersly reach out to AHFC, Enstar and MEA to inquire as to whether the programs would be able to be revived for a fifth phase. Tankersly noted that MEA and Enstar were distributing utility relief based on needs and did their own assessments on customer needs. Payments for water and sewer were not permitted under the CARES act. Council members discussed what needs were still unmet and how to meet the needs of citizens. Wasilla Clerk Jamie Newman asked council members to submit suggestions for the agenda at the meeting on Jan. 25.