Nome City Council members review budget items. Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM.

The City of Nome declared an economic disaster due to COVID-19 related losses during their regular City Council Meeting Monday night.

The city’s resolution states that COVID-19 precaution measures- including those put in place by federal, state and local authorities- have interrupted the City of Nome’s economy enough to warrant a local economic disaster. While it recognizes the problem, in itself the resolution doesn’t offer up firm actionable items.

Nome City Manager Glenn Steckman sees it as a tool for the city and its residents.  

“It’s more of an assistance document than [one that] is going to bring money into the community. It’s just showing people that the City Council has recognized the problem that the business community is facing.”

But the hope is that it would strengthen local businesses in their applications for COVID-19 relief by allowing them to say…

“Look, the city where I work or where I have my business in has declared this, this is part of my documentation for applying for the grant.”

In another resolution, the council formally accepted $5.6 million in federal CARES Act money, although they have still not decided how it will be spent. Guidelines on how they can spend that money are strict, it cannot go to recouping lost city revenue.

Several councilmembers have now questioned if those funds can be used to help local businesses but that would have to be done carefully and with a bit of creativity, explains Steckman. He says businesses can’t “double dip” by getting money from multiple parts of the CARES Act package.

That money can only be used for COVID-19 related expenses but could potentially be used to cover expenses for Nome’s public safety and city administration. Then, that could free up city funds that Nome could use as financial aid for local businesses. Or as Steckman explains, “then, it isn’t federal dollars, its city dollars.”

But there are lots of eligible capital projects the city could start like replacing the ventilation system at City Hall, internet streaming for public meetings, or updating the Recreation Center to be an emergency facility.  

The council plans to meet in a work session next Monday to hear from the general public with their ideas on how the money could be spent. Councilmember Jerald Brown also suggests inviting local Tribes who are also getting CARES Act money by saying, “it’d be nice to be able to coordinate if possible.”

And after multiple work sessions and regular meetings, Nome’s City Council passed their fiscal year 2021 budget. With that comes a revenue shortfall of $1,043,511.43. The approved municipal budget comes out to $13,599, 856.91.

Before adjourning last night’s regular meeting, the city announced it will hold the late Mayor Richard Beneville’s funeral on June 20th. After weeks of uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic, Nome is planning a parade and celebration of the mayor’s life.

Image at top: Nome City Council members review budget items. Photo from Matthew F. Smith, KNOM file.