Covid money stock photo illustration

Covid money stock photo illustration

Extension of CARES Act deadline grants flexibility to local municipalities

The deadline for federal CARES Act dollars to be spent was extended to Dec. 31, 2021

The deadline for federal CARES Act dollars to be spent was extended to Dec. 31, 2021 following federal approval of the change last week, allowing greater flexibility for local governments in determining how they will spend their remaining balance. The deadline had previously been Dec. 30, 2020.

The City of Soldotna received over $10 million in CARES Act money, including $7.38 million from the state and $2.65 million from the borough. Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen said Tuesday that the city had reported $6,958,879 in grant expenses. This means that for the month of December and into 2021, the city has around $2,982,000 remaining CARES Act funds to spend.

Throughout the pandemic, the city has used their money for a variety of programs and purchases.

The city has put more than $4.32 million toward Soldotna’s small businesses and nonprofits, including $3.48 million in grants to 165 businesses, $485,559 to 30 local nonprofits and $316,165 for the popular Holding Our Own Shop Local program.

Almost $1 million was given to local organizations to provide “critical services” through partnerships, including $322,631 to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, $222,300 to Kenai Peninsula College and $144,914 to Peninsula Community Health Services, among others.

Over half a million dollars was spent on direct support to residents in the form of rent and mortgage relief, Economic Relief for Residents stipends and water and sewer utility grants.

$1,013,508 was spent on payroll costs for public safety employees and those “substantially dedicated” to the city’s response to COVID-19. Queen said Tuesday that payroll expenses include a portion of the salary for public safety employees like police officers and for those who served on the emergency operations team. Payroll expenses also went toward paying new temporary employees brought in at different times to assist with the administration of grant programs or the additional disinfection of city facilities, Queen said.

Soldotna also spent $315,974 on non-payroll costs including the purchase of personal protective equipment and other expenditures related to mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in city facilities, among others.

“I look forward to working with Mayor (Paul) Whitney and the city council to prioritize and strategize the best use of the remaining grant funds, moving forward,” Queen said.

The City of Kenai also received more than $10 million in CARES Act money, including $7,700,832 from the state and $2,675,524 from the borough. Acting City Manager Terry Eubank said Tuesday that the extension of the deadline will give the city more time to decide what exactly it will put its remaining funds toward.

“The city was in a good position to fully expend the funds but now has the opportunity to more carefully examine the remaining funds and utilize them where they will provide the greatest benefit to the community,” Eubank said.

Over the past several months, the city has put CARES Act dollars toward a variety of programs, including business grants, marketing grants, commercial fishing grants and housing assistance.

Grants to local businesses were offered in two rounds, with the grant amount increasing for the second round. Total grants per Kenai businesses ranged from $1,750 to $35,000. Eligible businesses were also offered marketing grants in the form of $1,000 credits to use the city’s contractor for marketing services.

Like Soldotna and the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the City of Kenai also offered housing relief to residents living in city limits. As of Dec. 24, $912,000 in assistance had either been approved or sent out, representing 247 Kenai applicants, Kenai CARES Act Project Lead Larry Persily said Monday.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough received $37,458,449.47 from the state in CARES Act dollars. According to the borough’s CARES Act Relief Fund Projects dashboard, the borough has funded 24 projects using CARES Act money, including a housing relief program, grants to small businesses and retrofitting borough facilities.

According to the dashboard, the borough has spent more than $6.5 million in grants to small businesses, nonprofits, the commercial fishing industry and senior centers. Close to $130,000 was spend on an absentee vote by mail campaign. Over $1.5 million went to a second round of grants to small businesses and nonprofits and almost $10 million was distributed to the cities of Homer, Kachemak City, Kenai, Seldovia, Seward and Soldotna.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

Correction: An earlier version of this article quoted Stephanie Queen as saying “Mayor Sprague.” Ms. Queen would like to clarify that she meant to say “Mayor Whitney.”

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