The U.S. Department of the Treasury has expanded how municipalities can use federal aid for expenses incurred because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act allocations can now be used on personal protective equipment used to reopen schools, as well as on public health infrastructure like running water in rural villages. They can also be used to prevent layoffs of public safety officers, firefighters and other first responders and public health workers during the pandemic.
Kodiak was allocated $11.9 million and the borough received $5.8 million through the federal CARES Act.
U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Martha McSally (R-AZ) lobbied the Treasury Department for increased flexibility of CARES Act funds for states, tribes and local governments, said a statement released last week by Sullivan’s office.
In early May, Sullivan introduced the Coronavirus Relief Fund Flexibility Act that would allow federal relief funds from the CARES Act to be used to replace lost revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have heard from local leaders all throughout Alaska that their communities need additional flexibility to use federal relief funds in the ways most useful for their residents and specific circumstances, and I have been fighting for months to get them this flexibility,” Sullivan said in the press release.
However, municipalities are still unable to use federal funding to recuperate lost revenue, an issue for which Sullivan’s office continues to lobby the Treasury Department.
In a letter dated Aug. 7, Kodiak Island Borough Mayor Bill Roberts requested that Sullivan advocate for the use of CARES Act money to replace revenue lost by municipalities.
In the letter, Roberts said Kodiak has suffered from “cruise ship cancellations for 2020 summer ports of call and loss of ‘head tax’ revenue to the Borough,” as well as “travel restrictions that eliminated or highly reduced tourist travel to the Borough and resulted in lost Borough bed tax revenue.”
Other lost revenue resulted from lower fish prices, which has decreased the amount of fish taxes the borough has received.
Issues affecting fisheries include disruptions in the global supply chain, restaurant closures eliminating the fresh market for seafood, and uncertainties in the global market, Roberts said in the letter.
He added that with less state money coming in because of issues with oil production and prices, there is even less money available for municipalities.
“While all of these factors are already having an impact on borough finances, none of them can currently be addressed with CARES Act funds,” Roberts said.