Assembly to vote on controversial property purchases, CARES Act money distribution

Julia Terry and Veri di Suvero protest in favor of a controversial city plan to purchase properties, including the Best Western Golden Lion, to use as homeless services, housing and treatment sites on Monday, July 27, 2020. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly is expected to vote on the distribution of the city’s remaining CARES Act funds on Tuesday. Of $156 million in federal funds, a little more than 85% remains unallocated.

Assembly chair Felix Rivera said their intent is to decide how to split up the remaining $127 million tomorrow. Among the proposed uses are small business and nonprofit relief, mortgage and rental assistance and additional jobs programs for people who are underemployed or out of work. Anchorage arts and culture organizations are also proposed to get a share of the funds.

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“So there’s a lot of things that we are doing with the $156 million that has come our way,” Rivera said on Monday.

Rivera said the assembly has already received a lot of public feedback on how the money should be allocated. 

“It’s been a mix of [people who are] really supportive of what we’re doing as well as folks who maybe think we should spend a little bit more money on small business relief or shouldn’t spend money on specific projects that they don’t approve of,” he said, adding, “It’s been really good feedback so far.”

One of the most controversial proposals so far is the city’s plan to purchase four properties for treatment and homelessness resources. The proposal is backed by Anchorage homeless advocates and has had “thousands” of emails in support, according to the assembly. But hundreds of Anchorage residents turned out against the plan during two weeks of public testimony last month, citing concerns about the planning process and proximity of the facilities to nearby neighborhoods. 

RELATED: Assembly extends testimony on property purchase into next week

The assembly is expected to vote on the $22.5 million project tomorrow. $12.5 million of that would come from CARES Act funding. The remaining $10 million would come out of proceeds from the city’s sale of Municipal Light & Power to Chugach Electric; that money was already earmarked for a substance treatment facility like the one in the city’s plan. Rivera said he doesn’t know how the body will vote. 

“I don’t. We’ve heard so much feedback on that proposal. And so it could be a very close vote one way or the other.”

Public feedback on CARES Act funding allocation will be accepted online and through the municipal clerk’s office until 2 p.m. on Tuesday.