Juneau’s City Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau’s City Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

City urges governor to promote teleworking, safety at state offices

Assembly is also looking at initiatives to support local businesses

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly sent a letter to the Governor Mike Dunleavy on Friday urging him to take more proactive steps in reducing COVID-19 risk for state employees.

“We voted to respectfully request that the governor institute policies and procedures to minimize the transmission of coronavirus in state office buildings,” said Assembly member Greg Smith in a phone interview Friday.

Smith praised Dunleavy’s actions in establishing protocols to prevent transmission of the coronavirus at businesses or travel, but said that the same steps had not been put in place for state workers. At least one confirmed case in Juneau had contact with a state office building.

“The message coming from the governor’s office has not been very accommodating,” said Assembly member Carole Triem in a phone interview Friday.

Many state employees were still working in the office unnecessarily, Triem said, doing jobs that could easily be performed remotely. The letter encourages Dunleavy to promote less contact, more teleworking, and better protocols to protect state workers and their communities.

The Assembly is also working to ease some of the economic damage done by the twin trauma of quarantine closing businesses and a truncated tourist season. Triem, along with Assembly member Wade Bryson and Mayor Beth Weldon are working together to pioneer multiple initiatives.

“We’re working on a small business relief loan program. We’ll probably introduce this on Tuesday,” Triem said. “The advantage we have at the local government level is that we can move really fast.”

The loans would be available to businesses with fewer than 25 employees and would likely be available in amounts from $25,000 to $50,000, Triem said, though that may be subject to change before the program is greenlit. The loans would be zero-interest, zero-collateral loans, and would come from the budget reserve fund.

“We’d be giving them cash right now so they can cover the payroll and bills. The details aren’t final and we’ll be discussing it in the assembly,” Triem said. “Sign a piece of a paper, and we’ll give you some money to stop the bleeding.”

Triem also said the Assembly was looking at options for rental assistance, working through an existing organization, and pushing back the due date for sales taxes.

“We hear you, and we feel for you, but help is on the way,” Smith said. “We’re going to look at all the options, see where’s the biggest need.”

The Assembly will view these options at the meeting Tuesday.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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