Petersburg’s borough assembly Tuesday gave the green light to spending another $1.1 million dollars of federal coronavirus relief money for three different needs. The largest portion of that may go to the local hospital if needed. Another big piece will be paid out in grants to local businesses. And local families needed financial support for child care also will be able to apply.
The borough received just under four million dollars from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES Act, passed by Congress in March.
65,000 dollars of that could be paid to licensed child care providers to cover costs of that service for families who apply. The request came from the SHARE coalition, Stedman Elementary Partners in Education and Petersburg Mental Health Services.
“Our community has felt the need through COVID and even before that our child care system is a huge asset to our community and we need to be able to support our families as we go into this winter and the change of the schools,” said Becky Turland of PMHS. “So I would hope that everybody there would see the importance of helping our families and making sure that they can stay working.”
Families would apply to mental health for that child care assistance. The local groups estimate that around 20 children in grades kindergarten through 5th have families that could use that payment, and another five in preschool. The money would cover payments of up to 600 dollars a month for k-5 and up to 700 a month for preschool. It would only be through the end of this year.
Assembly member Jeff Meucci wanted to make sure the local coalition was asking for enough of the federal money for child care.
“You know of all the money that we have been giving away on this CARES funding, I mean for me this is one of the most important funding that we’re going to do for the community,” Meucci said.
If demand exceeds the 65,000 dollars then the per-child assistance would be reduced to ensure all applicants received funding. The assembly passed that payment unanimously. It was also a unanimous vote for a local business grant program that may use half a million dollars of the CARES Act money.
Board member Sarah Holmgrain supported the program on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce.
“Many businesses are uncertain if they will still have their doors open after the pandemic is over,”Holmgrain told the assembly. “And although many businesses have taken advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program and/or the Economic Injury Disaster Loads, it simply is not enough to ensure they are going to be able to survive the long fall, winter and even into spring, especially in light of our low revenue generated this summer.”
That program will award grants of up to 25,000 dollars to businesses that can show a loss in sales from April, May and June of this year.
“The idea is to focus on those businesses that did experience a significant loss of at least 20 percent from the same time period in 2019 or at least $10,000,” said Liz Cabrera, the borough’s director of community and economic development. “As you know, you can probably tell some businesses are certainly affected more than others. The aim is to try and address those that really have been impacted significantly.”
Businesses need to be based in Petersburg and can apply for the money even if they’ve already received other federal coronavirus aid. Grant awards will depend on how much of a year to year decline a business shows. And like the child care help the payments will be reduced if demand exceeds the total amount. The business grant money can be used through the end of the year for payroll and benefits, rent or mortgage payments and utilities.
To date over 260 Petersburg businesses including fishermen have received more than 6.6 million dollars in other coronavirus relief money, through the Paycheck Protection Program, an Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants and the state AK Cares program.
The largest payment from CARES Act funding approved by the assembly this month could go to the Petersburg Medical Center. The hospital requested over 608,000 dollars for a variety of needs. But PMC CEO Phil Hofstetter told the assembly that PMC is seeking additional sources of money.
“This request is really a last-ditch effort of a place holder request,” Hofstetter said. “We are still looking at grants. We are assessing (Federal Emergency Management Agency) reimbursement. We are looking at other avenues to obtain funding. I don’t anticipate us using this amount, however, I don’t know.”
Nearly half a million of that could cover payroll for PMC employees through the end of the year. Hofstetter said hard decisions on service cuts may be necessary after this funding is used if hospital revenues continue to be impacted. PMC had already received 3.6 million dollars in CARES Act money for loss of revenue earlier this year. April, May and June saw a drop in income of around 50 percent.
Assembly member Chelsea Tremblay also pointed out this payment would also pay for equipment to help with PMC service during the pandemic.
“This includes supporting the crisis COVID hotline, supporting the staff for all the work that they’re doing for that as well as running the tests and being part of the incident command team,” Tremblay said. “It also includes Cepheid test equipment. They’re putting in a request for a four-bay unit that would allow them to test a maximum of six specimens an hour, which would be a nice step up from where we are right now. There’s also a NuStep elliptical for Long Term Care, to help support health for the folks living in there, given the risk factors that they’re having to live under, as well as, this is very exciting, in-home monitoring units for supporting home health, tracking vital signs, glucose and pulse oximeters.”
Tuesday’s votes leave the borough with $307,856 remaining from the aid money. The local government has also funded school operations, testing for the local seafood workforce, testing at the airport, public portable restrooms and other emergency pay and equipment.