Borough Readies CARES Money for Give-Away
Almost 25 million dollars from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) is to be distributed to Interior businesses and individuals by the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Tonight (Thursday) the borough assembly will vote on an ordinance to approve the pass-through money. Money should get to locals in August.
The borough will pass through most of the $24,684,398 as grants to businesses and organizations for costs incurred or revenue losses suffered as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Chief of Staff Jim Williams says he thinks the number of people applying may overwhelm the administration.
“Because we’re anticipating the volume of applications to be very high, I don’t have the capacity inside the borough to run that many applications as quickly as people are expecting.”
So the administration is planning to hire a company to act as a third-party administrator. Williams expects a request for a proposal to go out as early as Friday, and it must be posted for 30 days. He thinks there is talent in the community to answer the RFP and start processing the CARES requests.
“Accept the applications, review them, tell if they are compliant and tell if folks are eligible. We hope to move through that very quickly once we get the applications flowing.”
The ordinance before the assembly tonight will establish a Business Interruption Grant program. Only businesses and non-profits who spent more than 25% above their regular expenses, or lost more than a quarter of their revenue qualify for the grant. And only for the period of March through the end of May, so save those receipts.
“Our intent is to make the application process so smooth, our vision was half as easy as the Permanent Fund application.”
There is a separate program where people can be reimbursed for buying PPE, Personal Protection Equipment. Folks can apply for up to $2500.
The Borough government itself is not eligible for very much of the CARES money, in spite of getting a significant revenue hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, mostly through lost tourism taxes, and the governor’s veto of school bond debt reimbursement.
Williams estimates the borough will lose $13 million dollars this year.
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act was passed by Congress in late March. It took awhile for Alaska to get $1.25 billion of that and for the Borough to get its part.
It is only to reimburse money the borough spent in response to the public health emergency, not money it didn’t take in. Local governments can apply for reimbursement of everything spent through Dec. 31, 2020.
“We guessed what we would probably use if we had a second wave of COVID, what the third-party administrator was gonna go, plus our contribution to the school district.”
Next year’s borough budget has a tiny expectation that some people won’t be able to pay their property taxes. Borough Chief Financial Officer, Debbie Brady, says a half of one percent increase of delinquent taxes was built in.
She has heard from nervous taxpayers who want to get payments out of the way.
It’s unclear if CARES Act money can replace delinquent property taxes.