(KFSK file photo)

Elected officials in Petersburg next month may hold a work session on spending the borough’s share of a nearly two trillion dollar federal economic stimulus bill.

Petersburg is expecting to receive a total of just $633,420 from this year’s American Rescue Plan Act. Congress passed the bill to lessen the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on governments, businesses and individuals.

Assembly member Jeff Meucci called for a work session in January to have a discussion about how best to spend that money.

“I think before we get a flood of people asking for this ARPA funds, I think we need to , the assembly needs to sit down and chat about what the proper amount of this ARPA funding to spend within the community to certain things,” Meucci said.

The borough received letters seeking funding help from several preschool and day care programs in the community. Those programs say they lost thousands of dollars in revenue by closing their doors this fall during Petersburg’s largest outbreak of the pandemic.

The assembly can vote to spend the money based on somewhat loose guidelines for how it can be used. In October, it already approved using up to 20,000 dollars to finish up a covered deck at the borough’s assisted living and elderly housing facility.

Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht cautioned that the money would not go as far as CARES Act funding doled out earlier in the pandemic.

“So I think if the assembly wants to put a program together it’s going to have to be really targeted to one very specific probably group and you’ll use up the biggest part of that,” Giesbrecht said.

By the end of last year, the borough had spent its payment of nearly four million dollars from the CARES Act. This year’s stimulus bill is also expected to mean a total payment to the state of Alaska of more than a billion dollars. Giesbrecht said the borough has been waiting to see how the state would use that money to avoid duplicating any programs. There’s also education funding and money for tribes in the legislation.

Assembly member Chelsea Tremblay did not want the borough to wait too long to offer aid to people who’ve been forced to stay home from work.

“I personally am feeling a little more inclined towards more immediate community support that way that people who need to stay home for quarantine purposes in order to keep their work places and their outside surroundings safer that they’re not dealing with possible heat shut off or falling behind in rent,” Tremblay said.

The deadline to spend the money is the end of 2024. Meucci hopes to decide on a date for a January work session at the assembly’s next meeting December 20th.

The assembly Monday did approve capital project lists for funding requests to the state government. A short list of priority projects totals nearly $32.4 million and is listed in no particular order. It includes over $16 million for site preparation for a new hospital facility and another 100,000 dollars for site selection work on that project. Paving for local streets, roof replacement for some of the school buildings, a boat haul out and wash down facility at Scow Bay and improvements at Papke’s Landing are also on that shortlist. A longer list includes numerous other project priorities for the various borough departments.

In the interest of full disclosure, assembly member Chelsea Tremblay is a current volunteer and former intern at KFSK where this story was produced.