Terry Eubank (left) and Paul Ostrander address the Kenai City Council during a budget work session on Saturday, April 24, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Terry Eubank (left) and Paul Ostrander address the Kenai City Council during a budget work session on Saturday, April 24, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai to use remaining CARES Act funds for public safety payroll

The city has about $63,000 that needs to be spent by the end of the year

The City of Kenai will use roughly $63,000 in remaining federal COVID relief funds for public safety payroll following Kenai City Council approval during the body’s Dec. 1 meeting. Of the roughly $10.3 million the City of Kenai received in federal CARES Act funds, $83,866 remain. Per an extended deadline authorized by Congress last year, that money must be spent by Dec. 30.

About $20,000 of that has already been earmarked for specific projects, including about $14,000 for the installation of touchless water bottle filling stations at city facilities and $6,300 for a spatial analysis and conceptual design for City Hall.

That leaves about $63,000 that hasn’t been approved for any specific project and is split between about $11,000 in the CARES Act Administration & Non-Payroll fund and about $52,500 in individual assistance grants. Individual assistance grants include things like grants for small businesses, rent and mortgage relief and food assistance services, all of which were offered by the city during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Per Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank, that leftover $63,000 is slated to be used to pay for public safety wages, such as those for police officers and firefighters. Usually, those employees’ wages are paid for out of the city’s general fund — the catchall account that is largely composed of tax dollars and is used for basic city operations.

Using the remaining CARES Act funds to pay for some of those wages will free up funding in the general fund, Eubank said.

The Kenai City Council discussed at their Nov. 3 meeting what those freed up general fund monies could be used for. City administrators suggested using $100,000 for another shop local program, similar to one offered earlier this year. That program offered vouchers to people who spent money on discretionary purchases at Kenai businesses to be used at participating businesses.

“While the utilization of General Fund money to stimulate our local economy is not a core service of the City, the once in a generation pandemic that all of our residents have been navigating for over 18 months could warrant supporting a program that will benefit our local businesses and community members that shop in our City,” reads an Oct. 28 memo from Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander to the council. “Administration does recommend that moving forward, the City (focuses) on the core services we provide to the residents of the City.”

Some council members expressed concerns about using $100,000 for a shop local program, which they said would necessitate smaller voucher amounts and lead to confusion about what was intended to be a one-time program. It was ultimately suggested that city administrators go back to the drawing board to figure out what to do with the freed up funds.

Kenai City Council meetings can be viewed on the city’s YouTube channel.

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

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