Skagway residents can start collecting additional unemployment benefits this month

Quiet streets in Skagway. September 2020 (Claire Stremple/KHNS)

Unemployed Skagway residents are getting a financial boost this winter, with up to $2,400 a month in municipal unemployment benefits. The money for the program comes from a gift made last year by Norwegian Cruise Lines.

The deadline to file for the first round of payments is on Monday afternoon.

Last fall, Skagway’s assembly decided that about a quarter of the $2 million gift from the cruise company should be made available to the community as unemployment benefits, in addition to any state or federal benefits.

Assembly member Reba Hylton says the money will help seasonal workers who’ve been struggling to weather the downturn in cruise ship traffic.

“That group of folks got really hit hard by the pandemic, obviously,” Hylton said. “So I’m really happy that this program is being implemented to hopefully help some of the people that have been hit hardest financially.”

Municipal Treasurer Heather Rodig says anyone can qualify if they are currently collecting state or federal unemployment benefits, if their benefits ran out by Sept. 1, or if they’ve lost work due to COVID-19.

“If you’re sick due to COVID and unable to work, or the business that you work for was closed due to COVID closures, you can collect based on that,” Rodig said.

That benefit wasn’t in the original plan, but as Hylton tells it, it’s an addition with timely impacts.

“I rode the ferry coming back, and there was an active case on the ferry, and that person probably isn’t going to be going to work,” Hylton said. “And it’s great that they don’t have to worry about that.”

The program allocates a little over $100,000 a month. There is a limit of $2,400 per month for anyone claiming the additional unemployment benefits. The COVID relief benefit is capped at $1,680, which works out to $120 a day for up to 14 days.

Municipal staff are expecting anywhere from 50 to 100 applicants. If fewer people apply and all the money isn’t spent, the assembly will determine another way to get the leftover funds into the hands of residents who need it.

Rodig says applications are available just inside the front door of Skagway’s City Hall and on the municipal website. She says applicants will need to provide some documentation.

“If you’re applying based on your unemployment status, then we need something from the federal or state agency stating your eligibility for unemployment. If you’re applying for closure or sickness, due to COVID, we need a letter from your employer stating the dates that you were sick or unable to work due to a closure. And then all applications must provide some sort of residency proof which we’re considering your Alaska ID with a Skagway address or your voter registration,” Rodig said.

Eligible months are December through March. The filing deadline for the December benefit is 4:59 p.m. on Jan. 10.

KHNS - Haines

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