Soldotna council passes pandemic aid programs

“This (pandemic) is affecting everyone.”

(Photo courtesy of city of Soldotna)

(Photo courtesy of city of Soldotna)

The city of Soldotna is altering one of its grant programs and offering discounts on city utility services to assist local businesses and residents during the pandemic.

At a special Soldotna City Council meeting Wednesday night, the council passed an ordinance that reduced water and sewer rates by 50% for all Soldotna residential and commercial users for the next two months.

The ordinance, introduced by council member Justin Ruffridge, offers the discount to all Soldotna utility users, not just those users who could prove they were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ruffridge said distributing the discount to every utility user will cut down on the time it will take city administration to parse through eligible applicants for the discount. The council unanimously approved the ordinance.

“This (pandemic) is affecting everyone,” Ruffridge said during the special council meeting.

City administration has also adjusted one of their business development programs to help local businesses. The Soldotna Storefront Improvement Program — which previously issued grants to aid local businesses in improving their storefronts — has been expanded to allow businesses in the city to apply for assistance in developing their online presence. The grant will cover 75% of eligible costs, up to $1,000, for web development, social media marketing programs and other ways of increasing online presence.

John Czarnezki, director of economic development and planning for the city of Soldotna, said the city is just starting to receive applications for the program. He said the program’s review committee plans to look over those applications next week.

The program, now called the Virtual Storefront Improvement Program, is intended to help local shops and restaurants adapt to social distancing mandates that have made it difficult for residents to participate in the local economy.

“It is the goal of this program to expand the visibility of and access to local businesses to increase their sales and customer contacts; and to increase the stability of our local economy and provide a wider marketplace for local goods and services,” the program’s guidelines say.

Grant applications are reviewing on a first-come, first-served basis until the funds run out. Business owners in the city of Soldotna can learn more and apply for the program by reaching out to Czarnezki at 907-714-1246 or emailing jczarnezki@soldotna.org.

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