(Black Press file photo)

(Black Press file photo)

Seward to spend cruise grant funds on community child care

Seward was one of six Alaskan communities Norwegian Cruise Line awarded money

The City of Seward will use a $1 million grant from Norwegian Cruise Line to establish community-based child care and to expand city utilities following a vote in support of the move by the Seward City Council during their Monday night meeting.

Seward was one of six Alaskan communities to which the cruise line awarded money aimed at helping those communities recover economically from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Award amounts ranged from $1 million to $2 million, according to a memo from Seward City Manager Janette Bower to the council. Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Hoonah and Sitka were among the other Alaskan communities to receive funds through the cruise line. Seward was the only community outside of Southeast Alaska to receive such funding.

KTOO reported earlier this month that the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly voted not to accept their $2 million donation, citing concerns about how the public would respond and instead asking that the cruise line donate the money to an organization like the Juneau Community Foundation.

In awarding funds to Alaska cities, Norwegian Cruise Line cited the negative impact of cruise ships being halted due to the pandemic on Alaskan tourism, about 60% of which comes from cruise ships.

“Cruise travel is vital to Alaska’s extensive tourism economy and the ongoing suspension of cruising is having a devastating ripple effect across the state,” the cruise line said in a May 4 press release.

The fate of Alaska’s 2021 cruise season was up in the air earlier this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Cruise ships were allowed to return to Alaska following approval of legislation by the U.S. Senate that said ships could visit Alaska without stopping at foreign ports in Canada, where COVID mitigation protocols are still in place.

The Seward City Council identified a need for improved access to child care in the city during a work session on June 7, where the council discussed how to best spend the funds. The council determined during that meeting that funds allocated for child care purposes would be best spent on purchasing or leasing a building to use as a child care facility, according to Bower’s memo.

The resolution passed by the council on Monday specifically approves $500,000 for the Seward Prevention Coalition for Happy Youth Programs & Educational Resources for the purpose of addressing child care needs, as well as $500,000 for the city’s Developer Reimbursement Program for the purpose of expanding city utilities.

The Seward City Council’s June 7 work session can be viewed on the city’s YouTube channel.

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

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