Juneau households that receive the city’s pandemic relief housing and utility grants this year may get $1,000 more than was initially offered.
That and several other local CARES Act-funded programs are coming down the pike.
On Tuesday, the Juneau Assembly unanimously supported bumping up the city’s maximum housing relief grant amount to $3,000 a household.
The change was prompted largely by news from the grant administrator that the program appears to be vastly undersubscribed.
“We’re concerned about our ability to expend all these funds in the time allowed,” said Erin Walker-Tolles, the executive director of Catholic Community Service, which is administering the program.
Last month, the Assembly committed $3 million of its federal CARES Act money to the program, which must be spent by the end of the year. The dollar figure was picked, in part, based on the demand for a similar program in Ketchikan.
Walker-Tolles told the Assembly on Tuesday another 800 to 1,000 households would need to apply to exhaust the money.
“The number of applications we’re receiving has gone down dramatically,” Walker-Tolles said. “We’re only getting, you know, probably five to 10 a day right now, compared to 400 out of the gate.”
With the extra $1,000 bump, she estimated there’d still be enough money for a few hundred more households.
Assembly member Loren Jones said it’s possible they’ve just overestimated how much need there is in Juneau.
“I know we’re all in a hurry to spend the federal money, we don’t want to send it back. We’re all in a hurry to meet need. But let’s not manufacture need in order to spend money,” Jones said.
Though, Jones ultimately didn’t object to the extra $1,000. The change is up for a final vote at the Assembly’s Nov. 23 meeting.
To qualify, a household must be financially impacted by the pandemic, and household income must be under $94,200 a year. Applications are available through the Catholic Community Service website. Paper applications are also available at City Hall and through curbside pickup at the city’s libraries.
The Assembly also worked on four more programs to be funded with local CARES Act money. Pending public hearing and a final Assembly vote on Nov. 23, the city will:
- Create a direct payment program to award $1,000 to $2,000 to adults financially impacted by the pandemic who earn less than $58,900 a year. The committee also amended the original proposal to pay out an extra $300 per dependent child.
- Create another grant program worth up to $50,000 per local business or nonprofit that’s suffered major losses.
- Give $300,000 to Family Promise of Juneau to buy a building to support vulnerable families during the pandemic.
- Supplement its public pandemic art program with an extra $30,000.
Reporter Jeremy Hsieh has applied for housing and utility assistance.