Kenai City Hall on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai City Hall on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai approves grace period utility payment plan

Doing nothing would have made delinquent accounts due with penalty and interest on past due amounts.

Kenai residents who have taken advantage of the city’s utility relief program during the COVID-19 pandemic will have 60 days from the expiration of the city’s disaster declaration to enter into a payment plan with the city to pay off their balance.

That plan was approved by the Kenai City Council during their April 7 meeting.

Kenai City Attorney Scott Bloom said Thursday that he thinks the alternative selected by the council was the fairest option of the three he presented in February. Other options proposed included forgiving the debt owed to the city and having the city do nothing.

Bloom and council members expressed a desire during their Feb. 3 meeting to choose an alternative that did not cause further financial hardship for residents who were already having trouble making utility payments. At that meeting, the council reached a consensus that the 60-day grace period and payment plan option was the best way to move forward.

“If the emergency declaration expires, Terry [Eubank] and I are bound to follow code,” Bloom said during that meeting. “When it expires we would have people who are very delinquent, it would trigger a notice and then potentially a shut-off.”

The ordinance passed on Wednesday suspends that procedure.

Bloom said that guidance from the initial round of CARES Act funding prohibited municipalities from using the funds to pay themselves, which they would be doing by using funds to cover city utility payments. Doing nothing would have made delinquent accounts due with penalty and interest on past due amounts.

The city codified water and sewer shut-offs via an executive order issued by Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander last March. That order said that utilities would not be shut off for customers who certified that they had been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, nor would money owed to the city accrue penalty and interest.

The order will expire with the city’s disaster declaration, which the council voted last month to extend to the end of May. Kenai’s disaster declaration was first issued in March of 2020 and has since been extended six times.

According to a memo sent from Bloom to the council at the end of February, there were 29 utility accounts that had completed the impact paperwork to take advantage of the program. The cumulative balance on the accounts was about $21,000. As of Thursday, there were 26 accounts whose owners had taken advantage of the program with a total balance of $21,855.65.

Bloom also noted that other programs, not offered by the city, aimed to use CARES Act money to help Alaska residents with rent and utility payments. Data provided to the city from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation shows that of 413 households who applied for the Kenai Housing Relief Program, 275 qualified. In total, just over $1 million in program funding had been paid to landlords and mortgagors with households averaging about $927.09 in monthly assistance.

Bloom also noted that another wave of financial relief from the American Rescue Plan will likely see further financial assistance programs offered to Alaska residents.

More information about utility payment options can be found at kenai.city.

More in News

Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank, left, and Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander present during a budget work session on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Flat mill rate, sales tax included in Kenai budget proposal

The budget proposal is subject to final approval by the Kenai City Council

t
Senate effectively kills restrictive transgender sports bill

Bipartisan group of senators votes to table controversial bill

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, chair of the bicameral conference committee tasked with hammering out differences in the state’s budget bill, signs the committee report as members finished their work on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Committee compromises on PFD in budget plan

Members of the conference committee agreed Tuesday to a payment of about $3,800

Graduates laugh during teacher Jesse Bjorkman’s 2022 commencement address at Nikiski Middle/High School on Monday, May 16, 2022 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Nikiski Middle/High School graduates 31 students

The commencement ceremony was held Monday in the school gym

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Members of the Alaska House of Representatives on Saturday rejected the budget bill passed by the Senate earlier in the week. The bill will now go to a bicameral committee for negotiations, but the end of the legislative session is Wednesday.
House votes down Senate’s budget as end of session nears

State budget now goes to negotiating committee

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Candidate for Alaska’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives Tara Sweeney, a Republican, was in Juneau on Monday and sat down with the Empire for an interview. Sweeney said the three main pillars of her campaign are the economy, jobs and healthy communities.
Sweeney cites experience in run for Congress

GOP candidate touts her history of government-related work

One tree stands in front of the Kenai Post Office on Thursday, May 12, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai taking down hazard beetle trees

The city hopes to leverage grant funds for most of the work

Former Alaska governor and current congressional hopeful Sarah Palin speaks with attendees at a meet-and-greet event outside of Ginger’s Restaurant on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Palin brings congressional bid to Soldotna

The former governor took time Saturday to sign autographs and take pictures with attendees

Most Read