After 825 days of sheltering homeless in Anchorage hotels, FEMA reimbursement of $80 million to Muni seems unlikely

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According to a recent advisory document from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the hotel shelter program set up by former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz for homeless people in Anchorage may not be fully reimbursed, because the city showed no actual relationship between the people sheltered and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Sockeye, Alex, Creekwood, Aviator, and Guest House hotels were part of the overall Covid response operation set up by the previous administrations to keep homeless people distanced during the Covid pandemic. Of those, only the Guest House actually housed people who needed to be isolated due to a Covid-19 infection.

As of May 24, the federal agency has reimbursed Anchorage just $41.1 million, or 35.35% of the projected total of over $127.6 million spent on hotel rooms for the homeless in Anchorage since the outset of the declared federal, state, and city emergency.

The funds that have gone out for the hotels have come from the city’s reserve fund, which the city is required to have in order to backstop bonds, and to pay for other disasters that could arise, such as taking care of people after earthquakes, avalanches, or wildfires.

Berkowitz and the leftist Anchorage Assembly started putting people in the Sullivan Arena and in local hotels on March 20, 2020, saying it was a “temporary solution.” When Berkowitz unceremoniously quit in October of 2020, the Assembly’s leftist chairwoman took over and served without being elected for eight months. Assemblywoman Austin Quinn-Davidson said she would end the sheltering program last year, but instead left the problem for Mayor Dave Bronson, who fought the Assembly for nearly a year to allow him to set up a different kind of response to homelessness than the one that was draining the city dry. His solution that involved a social services navigation center and temporary shelter system that would help find a path for those who want to get back on their feet.

Bronson has announced he will close the Sullivan Arena at the end of the month and FEMA has stated it will end all reimbursements as of July 1. Costly repairs in the millions of dollars will be needed to make it usable for events, as the facilities have been used and abused, including the plumbing that has been all but destroyed by people flushing their clothing down the toilets.

Meanwhile, City Manager Amy Demboski said that although FEMA hasn’t reimbursed, the door is not entirely closed. And she pointed out that every FEMA region is interpreting the FEMA guidance differently, leading to some cities being reimbursed for some shelter expenses, while others are not, such as Denver, Col., which is in Region 8. Alaska is in Region 10.

According to the FEMA advisory document, the agency will provide flexibility to applicants to “take measures to safely conduct non- congregate sheltering activities for incidents issued a Stafford Act declaration on or after June 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 Act declaration.” That end date is nearly one year ago.

The agency clarifies, “FEMA also intends that those sheltered are transitioned to the next phase of recovery when there is no longer an immediate threat to life or public health and safety.” In the case of the Berkowitz-Quinn-Davidson hoteling of chronically homeless, many of those clients were in there for far longer than that 7-14 days that FEMA would be likely to reimburse.

When Bronson took office, one of his first priorities was to end the program that was costing the city over $150,000 a day. He was blocked by Assembly leadership at every turn, until a mediator was brought in to work with a subgroup appointed by the Assembly that would come up with an acceptable and humane solution for those using the Sullivan and area hotels as publicly funded shelters.

The Assembly is now working on an ordinance to impeach the mayor if he doesn’t spend the funds the Assembly has appropriated. Bronson has been winding down the expenditures on the various responses to the Covid pandemic, including the hotels, the Sullivan Arena, the city testing sites and the city Covid-19 shot sites.

The Sullivan Arena is the longest-running Covid-related shelter in the nation, having been open for over 825 days. The hotels have been used as non-congregate facilities for nearly as long, often for the same clientele night after night, although the Bronson Administration has stepped down the hotel usage in the nearly one year he has been in office.

Now, it appears the property taxpayers of Anchorage are on the hook for what is believed to be over $86 million, money that came from reserves. The reserve fund is essentially a general fund that the city uses to pay for things like police and fire services.

20 COMMENTS

  1. So because of the Marxist Nine, Anchorage is in debt for $96,969.69 per day for 925 days?
    What were they eating, ribeye? Why not bologna sandwiches?

  2. This $80 million would have kept a lot of Anchorage small businesses open and people employed. These funds were diverted for the Assembly’s own uses! Outrageous!

  3. The ones I feel for are the hotel room attendants. those in housekeeping, who loyally put
    the rooms back together after the homeless, they deserve a generous compensation for commitment.

  4. You vote this Assembly back in, Anchorage. You lost recalls.

    This is what you wanted.

  5. Ohhh… what are the odds?
    The Assembly and our SF based Mayor demonstrated a complete and total lack of awareness of the rules? They ended up spending a LOT of your money under the false belief that the Federal Government is just going to “take their word for it” that the hoteling the homeless was a COVID prevention measure?
    .
    One would think the Treasury telling them that their plan to use $20M of COVID relief funds to buy buildings for the homeless might, just might have tipped them off. But… nope. Like the toddlers they are, they blindly forged ahead and made incorrect assumptions.

  6. The assembly used Muni operating funds to blow on their pet project of graft and appropriating money into coffers that benefit their incomes and political aspirations. They were told the money wouldn’t be paid back by FEMA but they insisted it would and did it any way.

    • They did the same thing with their homeless shelter buildings.
      Oh… and let’s not forget this is on top of the $32M+ hit we took in 2020 when the State refused to provide bond debt servicing funds to the Muni.
      .
      Didn’t stop them from spending to the cap anyway.
      .
      Leftists. They will always spend your money.

  7. This is what happens when Mayor B said at the outset of Covid, “we, in the government, will take care of you.”

    True Americans (and Anchoragites) do not live based on the hope of what the government will do for us.

    Why then do top libs think they know better?

  8. Wow. Glad I’m not an Anchorage taxpayer*. What must that be like?

    * – they’ll probably go to the state begging for money to make up the shortfall and the legislature will just pull it from the Permanent Fund.

  9. Looks like there need to be some gigantic cuts to the assembly;s pet projects. I do believe Bill Falsey being retained at $100k is a starting point. No new spending until this mess is corrected.

  10. Federal money. Always strings attached. Loss of options. Never take federal money as a first resort. Stupid business plan. They always renege it seems on follow through except their strings attached. Foreseeable but not to the libs running the show with an iron whip in Anchorage.

  11. Thank God the Assembly is on top of this. Last night they introduced a resolution to recognize pride month.
    .
    That will fix it.

  12. The point of all these actions is to bankrupt government and replace it with their own. They don’t care about their phony causes. They want absolute power because they are sociopaths.

  13. I’m Alaskan… please give me money. I didn’t catch fish this year, I had an earthquake, I’m native, the cruise ships didn’t come, it was to hot, we had a landslide, we had a brush fire, it rained. Please send us money!!!

  14. FEMA reimbursements do not end July 1st, they reduce from 100% to 90%.
    The Muni has through December 31, 2022 to apply for reimbursements.
    The information was collected to determine eligibility through July 2021.

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