Juneau City Hall on Monday, March 30, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Juneau City Hall on Monday, March 30, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Assembly waits on information before taking action

Some members want to make sure no unnecessary money is spent

City and Borough of Juneau Assembly voted Monday to postpone two COVID-19 response measures until next week, with some members saying they hadn’t had enough time to review the ordinances.

With about half the members joining the meeting telephonically, the Assembly decided to delay votes on revisions to the city’s civil defense and continuity of government codes and an ordinance to provide rental assistance.

The city’s civil defense and continuity of government codes, which were written in 1967 and 1963 respectively, detail procedures for the city to follow in the event of an emergency. According to Assembly documents for Monday’s meeting, the underlying concepts of the codes remains mostly valid but because of their age there is a need to update the language.

Assembly member Loren Jones said he hadn’t had time to fully go over the ordinance and wouldn’t know what he was voting on. Other members agreed, and the vote was delayed another week.

The vote on rental assistance funds was also delayed because of insufficient information, this time from the federal government. The Family First Coronavirus Response Act recently passed by Congress includes funds for rental assistance, and there were concerns about duplicating federal programs, according to City Manager Rorie Watt.

The Assembly was supposed to hear from the recently formed Economic Stabilization Task Force created by Mayor Beth Weldon. The task force; however, felt it hasn’t had sufficient time to properly assess the situation and submit a list of recommendations to the Assembly.

Task force members were able to provide some information to the Assembly, but asked they have the remainder of the week to complete their final recommendations.

Even without the task force’s recommendations, some Assembly members are ready to move forward.

“This is the second time we’ve moved it to another meeting,” Assembly member Carole Triem said of the rental assistance ordinance. “We managed to do it really quickly with the small business loans, why can’t we do the same for regular people?”

Triem said the Assembly was meeting again on Wednesday to get more information on the situation at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center where at least four employees have tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a letter, task force members provided the Assembly with financial and regulatory issues that will have to be navigated when it comes to implementing recovery efforts.

“How would this program intersect with housing assistance provided by other federal, state or tribal organizations?” the letter asks. “What new programs are coming online that will provide this or similar relief?”

Much of what the Assembly and the task force can do will depend on what the federal money is allowed to be used for.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration has said the federal government gave states broad discretion when using COVID-19 relief funds, but some local leaders have expressed skepticism at the governor’s approach.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.

Information on the coronavirus is available from websites for the City and Borough of Juneau, the State of Alaska at coronavirus.alaska.gov and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with flu-like symptoms are encouraged to contact their health care provider.

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