The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday approved spending $2.8 million to shelter homeless people at the Aviator Hotel downtown.
According to officials with Mayor Dave Bronson’s office, there are currently 191 homeless people using 166 rooms at the hotel. They say the money will pay for up to 225 rooms from July 1 to the end of September.
Initially, paying the housing costs was set to come from alcohol tax funds, but the Assembly passed a version of the resolution Tuesday that instead takes money from the city’s general fund balance.
Anchorage Assembly member Chris Constant supported the new version, saying that because the homelessness response came during the COVID-19 pandemic, FEMA — the Federal Emergency Management Agency — could reimburse up to 90% of the costs.
City health director Joe Gerace was skeptical that would actually happen. At the Assembly meeting, he said funding should instead come from the alcohol tax.
“Clearly, a lot of this sheltering is a direct ramification of people being in some kind of homeless status,” Gerace said. “Nobody currently at the Aviator is there because they are currently dealing with recovery from COVID-19, which convolutes getting reimbursed. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but we have fought this and fought this with FEMA, hence being about $80 million unreimbursed.”
As of mid-June, the city had requested about $87 million in funds to be reimbursed by FEMA, and had received just over $41 million back.
The resolution to pay for housing at the Aviator Hotel was approved by an 8-3 vote, with members Jamie Allard, Randy Sulte and Kevin Cross opposed.