One of the COVID-19 pandemic’s lasting legacies will likely be the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, one of the largest economic stimulus packages in American history. The legislation was passed by Congress last April and, with a price tag of almost $2 trillion, is the largest economic stimulus package in the history of the United States.
One element of the CARES Act was the Coronavirus Relief Fund, through which the State of Alaska received $1.25 billion. The state gave some money to municipalities around Alaska, including the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Local governments are also expected to receive more federal financial COVID relief via the American Rescue Plan, which Congress passed in March 2021 under President Joe Biden.
Locally, CARES funds were disbursed to the both cities and the borough and have gone to a number of programs to support the local economy.
Kenai Peninsula Borough
From the State of Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula Borough received about $37.5 million. Of that, the borough gave about $10 million to incorporated cities on the peninsula, including Kenai and Soldotna. With their remaining funds, the borough tackled a wide range of projects.
Those projects included grants awarded to small businesses, nonprofits, commercial fishers and senior centers impacted by COVID-19, to which they allocated over $6.6 million. About $3.7 million was used to reimburse service area personnel costs in administering activities related to COVID-19.
Just over $130,000 was used for an absentee vote-by-mail campaign. $100,000 was allocated to remote meeting integration in the assembly chambers and $2.4 was used to expand rural internet access via communication tower development.
In total, the City of Soldotna received about $10 million in CARES Act funding, including $7.38 million from the state and $2.56 million from the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
About $1.3 million of that was used for the city’s response and mitigation measures, including payroll costs for public safety employees and employees “substantially dedicated” to responding to the pandemic and non-payroll costs like personal protective equipment.
The city launched several programs using CARES Act money, which were specifically targeted toward small businesses and nonprofits, partnerships with local organizations and direct relief to residents. One of the biggest programs offered by the city was a grant program for local businesses. Over two rounds of grants, the city distributed just over $3.5 million in grants, averaging more than $20,000 per business.
Other programs offered by the city included a housing relief program offered by the city and administered by the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation. To that, the city allocated $400,000 that went to 117 Soldotna households with average monthly payments of $872.
Kenai Peninsula College, the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, Central Peninsula Hospital and Freedom House were all also among recipients of the city’s CARES money.
The City of Kenai received just over $10 million in CARES Act money, including about $7.7 million from the state and about $2.7 million from the borough.
Offered by the city throughout the course of the pandemic were three rounds of business grants, marketing grants, commercial fishing grants, and housing assistance relief programs. Many of those were similar to programs offered by Soldotna and the borough. Kenai also launched a program specifically to help people pay for groceries and essential household goods.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.