Small business owners in Nome will soon be able to apply for more relief money through another round of CARES Act funding from the City of Nome. That decision came out of the Nome City Council’s regular meeting on Monday.

This round will allow businesses to submit quotes or receipts for amounts up to $7,500, showing how COVID-19 has affected their operations. Previous business stimuluses from the City of Nome have gone towards helping utility and revenue losses for small businesses, artists, and carvers. Councilmember Jennifer Reader hoped this latest round will allow proprietors to have spending flexibility for their individual needs with COVID-19.

[It will have the] business say, ‘help I need help with utilities, I need help with fuel.’ [or] Maybe it is [for] an alteration to their business because not everyone has the same story.”

– Councilmember Jennifer Reader

That’s a bit more helpful for hotel owner Judy Martinson, who said businesses like hers need cash now.

You gotta keep a business running, you can’t just run on hand sanitizer. You’ve got to pay your electric bills and fuel bills. What if we get a vaccine and we have five hundred cases of hand sanitizer? I just see solvency as a little bit important right now.”

– Judy Martinson

Though her business Centurion LLC, has been approved for $20,000 in previous CARES Act awards, Martinson worries that her business will continue to be negatively impacted. She said she immediately had to take a portion of those funds to pay down her fuel costs.

Meanwhile, the City of Nome is also considering extending the emergency order that allows the city manager to limit travel into and out of Nome to slow the spread of COVID-19. That could be extended to June 2021.

That is the order that allows the manager to implement a quarantine for travelers coming to Nome.

Although there has been no community spread of the virus reported in Nome for weeks, Alaska continues to report record numbers of confirmed cases and hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients. Many of those are in Anchorage. Rural communities in the Bethel census area have some of the highest reported rates of COVID-19 in the country.

Only two citizens spoke on the ordinance, including Judy Martinson, who thinks local travel requirements could cause businesses to close.  

“I’m really asking you to consider the economic disaster you are making of this town. I don’t think things are going to change much either way. Some people are going to get it [the coronavirus] and some people aren’t.”

– Judy Martinson

The emergency ordinance must still go through a second reading before a final decision is made.

But speaking in favor of the ordinance Monday night was Nome school- teacher Aaron Blankenship. He argues that Nome’s emergency ordinances have allowed Nome Public Schools to operate since Labor Day with little disruption.

“We are talking about financial impacts today but what’s the financial impact of virtual schooling our children for six to twenty-four months? There has been a lot of talk of small businesses. Nome has so few businesses as is and absolutely none of us want to see them go. There have been countless businesses hosting fundraisers and asking for donations online because they might have to close their doors. Across the country people have donated whatever they can. If you need the help please ask for it, let us know how much money we can give you to keep your doors open.”

– Aaron Blankenship

Nome’s emergency ordinance will be up for a second reading at the next scheduled city council meeting on November 9th.

*Correction: The headline of this article incorrectly stated that the City of Nome was doling out funds for small businesses, when in fact on Monday the City Council authorized the City Manager to develop and implement an application plan for small businesses to receive these funds, it has not been created yet so businesses are not yet able to apply.

Image at top: Nome City Councilmembers Jennifer Reader and Adam Martinson shown in the background during a regular meeting. Photo from Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM (2020).

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