Anchorage Assembly passes $15.4 million relief package

Melissa Hutchinson is a waitress and the dayshift supervisor at Gwennie's Old Alaska Restaurant. She's standing behind the bar at the Anchorage restaurant.
Melissa Hutchinson, waitress and dayshift supervisor at Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant in Anchorage.. (Matthew Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly approved appropriations for the final $15.4 million of the city’s CARES Act allotment at a meeting Tuesday night.

About half the sum will go to the city’s existing rental and mortgage assistance program. A little less than half will go to grants for small businesses affected by the new wave of hunker down measures, including restaurants, bars and entertainment facilities. 

Tuesday’s cash infusion means a total of $13 million in COVID-19 relief money remains available for small businesses. Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson’s administration said multiple aid programs, including small business grants, have been oversubscribed in recent months.

A program paying local restaurants to provide meals to struggling families received $600,000. A final $1 million was added to the city’s voucher program for individuals and families to purchase essentials like groceries, gas, diapers and medication. 

The administration hopes to distribute the gift-card vouchers to eligible recipients within a few weeks. There is more demand for the program than existing funds can cover.

Many testifiers at Tuesday’s meeting criticized the Assembly for the new hunker down restrictions and their impact on businesses, particularly as aid money starts to run out.

The Assembly also passed a resolution on Tuesday urging Congress to pass another relief bill to hold Anchorage’s economy together until a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available.

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Kavitha George is the host of Alaska Morning News at Alaska Public Media. She also reports on business, labor and the economy. Reach her at kgeorge@alaskapublic.org.