Bills making their way through Congress could mean more coronavirus relief funding and more freedom in how the money that’s already been disbursed can be spent. (Courtesy Photo | Louis Velazquez, Unsplash)

Bills making their way through Congress could mean more coronavirus relief funding and more freedom in how the money that’s already been disbursed can be spent. (Courtesy Photo | Louis Velazquez, Unsplash)

New bills could bring more coronavirus relief money, spending flexibility

Bill backed by Alaska’s senators could free up how cities spend funding that’s here

Bills moving through Congress could mean more federal relief money is on its way and give cities more freedom in how they spend the money the funds that have already come through.

On Wednesday, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, met with President Donald Trump to discuss a bill that would make CARES Act funding much more flexible in its uses. The “Coronavirus Relief Fund Flexibility Act” introduced by Sullivan along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and a bipartisan group of senators would allow municipalities to used federal CARES Act funding for lost revenue. Local leaders throughout the state have been vocal about needing to make up for revenue shortfall.

“It was constructive,” Sullivan said of his meeting with the president in a video statement. “I think the president’s seeing the importance of this and we continue to work on it.”

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, speaks during an interview at the Juneau Empire on Monday, Aug. 5, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, speaks during an interview at the Juneau Empire on Monday, Aug. 5, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Asked when action might be taken on the bill, Sullivan spokesperson Mike Anderson told the Empire, “discussions continue to be ongoing with Congress and the administration.”

[CARES Act money is coming, but use is still unclear]

Sullivan’s bill was co-sponsored by Murkowski and Sens. Sheldon Whitehorse, D-Rhode Island; Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia; Angus King, I-Maine and Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota.

On April 30, local leaders from across the state told the House Finance Committee without the ability to backfill lost revenue, essential services would have to be cut. But congressional lawmakers responded, and now in addition to Sullivan’s bill additional legislation is being made with flexibility in mind.

On Wednesday, House Democrats introduced the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or “HEROES” Act, which calls for an additional $3 trillion in federal relief spending.

“It seems to me that somewhere in all this there’s a solution,” City and Borough of Juneau Manager Rorie Watt said of all the bills in Congress. “It seems like it’s a priority for them.”

The city has worked to understand exactly how federal dollars can be spent. With all the new legislation coming, Watt said he felt confident the problem would be resolved.

In the meantime; however, what instructions the city does have are not entirely illuminating.

“They give a very mixed message,” Watt said of the guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department. “It’s says money can’t be part of an item you previously budgeted for but then it says…you may presume that those employees are eligible for funding.”

Cities are awaiting compliance letters being drafted by the Department of Law that will further clarify how funds can be used.

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

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

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of Feb. 19

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé students hold up signs during a rally along Egan Drive on Tuesday afternoon protesting a proposal to consolidate all local students in grades 10-12 at Thunder Mountain High School to help deal with the Juneau School District’s financial crisis. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
JDHS students, teachers rally to keep grades 9-12 at downtown school if consolidation occurs

District’s proposed move to TMHS would result in loss of vocational facilities, ninth-grade students.

Deven Mitchell, executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., gives a tour of the corporation’s investment floor to Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, and other attendees of an open house on Friday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. leaders approve proposal to borrow up to $4 billion for investments

Plan must be OK’d by legislators and Gov. Mike Dunleavy because it requires changes to state law.

Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, presides over a mostly empty House chamber at the end of an hourslong recess over education legislation on Monday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empure)
Tie vote kills early House debate on education funding

Lawmakers spend much of Monday in closed-door negotiations, plan to take up bill again Tuesday.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces his proposed FY2025 budget at a news conference in Juneau on Dec. 14, 2023. (Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)
Gov. Dunleavy proposes tax breaks for the private sector to address Alaska’s high cost of living

The Dunleavy administration’s proposal to address a crisis of affordability in Alaska… Continue reading

Lacey Sanders, director of the state Office of Management and Budget, presents Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s updated budget requests for this fiscal year and next to the Senate Finance Committee on Monday at the Alaska State Capitol. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Small changes in governor’s proposed budget could mean big moves for Juneau

New plan moves staff from Permanent Fund building, opening space for city to put all employees there

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Smokestack emissions into Fairbanks’ atmosphere are seen on March 1, 2023, from the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska legislators give closer look at bill aimed at storing carbon emissions underground

Bill could enable enhanced oil recovery, sequestration of emissions from new coal-fired power.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read