Anchorage Assembly shapes early plans for next round of COVID-19 stimulus

buildings stand in front of a snowy mountain range
Downtown Anchorage, as seen from the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. (Abbey Collins/Alaska Public Media)

Another round of federal COVID-19 stimulus money is on its way to Anchorage, though how much and when it will arrive is not exactly clear. 

“I’m waiting to hear from the municipal administration and they are waiting to hear from (the U.S. Department of) Treasury,” Assembly Chair Felix Rivera said Tuesday.

It’s estimated Anchorage will receive about $101 million through the American Rescue Plan Act, which Congress passed earlier this month. The Assembly has been discussing how to use the money over the last few weeks so when it arrives it can go out as soon as possible.

Rivera said a good place to start are the waitlists for CARES Act programs, including small business and nonprofit relief: Anchorage residents who have applied for aid but weren’t able to get it the last time around.

The Assembly is prioritizing relief similar to what the CARES Act offered, including economic stimulus, family support and housing and homelessness aid. At a recent work session, Assembly member John Weddleton said it’s tricky to know where to put municipal aid money before it’s clear what the federal and state aid options will be.

“The serious money, it’s at the federal level. Then the state got a huge amount … and our programs were really best used to kind of fill in the cracks that were left by those much larger programs,” Weddleton said.

Rivera said they expect more information from the federal government this week, but state allocations likely won’t be decided until May. 

“I think that’s our biggest question mark — what the heck the state’s going to do with the $1 billion that they are receiving.”

Rivera said the Assembly plans to emphasize equity in the next round of aid, particularly in outreach to non-English speaking communities and lower-income communities who may not have internet access, to let them know what resources are available. When CARES Act allocations were passed over the summer, the Assembly included a provision to collect demographic data of recipients to track how funds were distributed.

“I’m still waiting to get reports on that demographic data from the administration and that should hopefully inform how we proceed with this next round,” Rivera said.

The Assembly will take up the discussion again at their April 9 meeting. Rivera said he’s hopeful money could start flowing out to the community within the next month.