Damage control: Mayor, Assembly to hold press conference on CARES Act 'homeless hotels' spending - Must Read Alaska
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Damage control: Mayor, Assembly to hold press conference on CARES Act ‘homeless hotels’ spending

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A press conference on Monday is scheduled for Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who will discuss and defend the CARES Act funds and where his administration and liberal Assembly members are planning to allocate it. The press conference will come immediately after the mayor gives a presentation to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce on the same topic.

The press conference will also feature Jason Bockenstedt, Berkowitz’ chief of staff; Chris Schutte, the Director of Economic and Community Development; Felix Rivera, Assembly Chair; and Austin Quinn-Davidson, Assembly Vice-Chair. The presser starts at 1 pm. No members of the public or press are allowed into the mayor’s conference room on the 8th floor of City Hall, per the orders of the Mayor. All will be watching on Facebook or Channel 9, and providing their questions by phone.

Assembly Chair Rivera is already on record saying the CARES Act money the city has been granted must be used to address racial inequality. The mayor is on record saying that the city may very well end up spending the CARES Act money on his homeless project because after the November election, Donald Trump may no longer be president.

Quinn-Davidson and Rivera are on record saying public testimony against the plan was racist.

The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Treasury has cautioned the municipality, and last week all but warned Anchorage against its plan to use the COVID-19 relief money to purchase buildings for the care and feeding of street people.

[Read: Inspector General says ‘no way’ to mayor’s plan]

Berkowitz said that he is not concerned because he doesn’t know which White House he’ll be dealing with after November, so he thinks the city will just go ahead with the plan, in the expectation that the Treasury Department, under Joe Biden, will allow the Berkowitz Homeless Hotel plan to go forward.

“We’re proceeding as if it’s going to be authorized,” he said.

However, the money that Anchorage was given — $156 million — has to be spent by December or it must be returned, something reporters did not ask him about during his Friday press briefing.

Rivera last week asked all Assembly members to provide him with their statements regarding the Assembly’s decision to use the money for the Berkowitz Homeless Hotel plan. It’s unclear if Rivera intends to include them in the press conference on Monday, which will be broadcast from the mayor’s Facebook page.

Rivera’s own statement reveals his disappointment over the Inspector General’s curbs on the plans to buy three out of four properties around town for shelters for street people and drug treatment centers.

“Today the Inspector General’s (IG) Office, after preliminary discussions with the U.S. Department of Treasury, talked with municipal officials and I regarding the purchase of three of the four properties within AO 2020-66(S) as approved last night by the Assembly. According to the IG’s interpretation, the property purchases would not be an allowable use of Coronavirus Relief Funds … The next step is to request policy guidance directly from Treasury, the final decision maker on allowable uses. While I am disappointed in the conversation today, I remain hopeful that further discussions with Treasury will resolve the issue. Regardless, we must never stop making progress to assist our houseless population,” Rivera wrote.

Jamie Allard, a member from Eagle River, provided Must Read Alaska with her statement. In it, she said the Berkowitz plan is a misappropriation of taxpayer money:

““The CARES Act provides that payments from the Fund may only be; used to cover costs that are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to theCoronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19); were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the dateof enactment of the CARES Act) for the State of government; and
were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020 and ends on December 30, 2020.”
(US Department of Treasury Guidance for State, Territorial, Local and Tribal Governments Updated June 30, 2020)

“Expanding the use of the federal CRF is in direct violation of the US Treasury Guidance. Federal regulation may be further restricted, but not expanded. “Funds may not be used to fill shortfalls in government revenue to cover expenditures that would not otherwise qualify under the statute. Although, a broad range of uses is allowed revenue replacement is not a permissible use of Fund payments.” (US Department of Treasury Guidance for State, Territorial, Local and Tribal Governments Updated June 30, 2020)

“Eligible expenditures include, but are not limited to, payment for: Medical expenses; Public health expenses; Payroll expenses for public safety, public health, health care, human services, and similar employees; COVID-19-related public health measures; Economic support in connection with the COVID-19 public health emergency; Small businesses; the function of government.”(US Department of Treasury Guidance for State, Territorial, Local and Tribal Governments Updated June 30, 2020)

“Nonexclusive examples of ineligible expenditures: Expenses for the State of Medicaid; Damages covered by insurance; Payroll or benefits expenses for employees whose work duties and not substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency; Expenses that have been or will be reimbursed under any federal programs, such as the reimbursement by the federal government pursuant to the CARES Act of contributions by States to State unemployment funds; Reimbursement to donors for donated items or services; Workforce bonuses other than hazard pay or overtime; Severance pay; Legal settlements.”(US Department of Treasury Guidance for State, Territorial, Local and Tribal Governments Updated June 30, 2020)

“The MOA does not have the authority or the responsibility to exploit perceived “loop-holes” in the congressional appropriation for the CRF. It is not the federal government’s responsibility to underwrite the MOA’s failures to be fiscally responsible for local taxpayer dollars. The US Treasury Department will hold the MOA liable for all misappropriation of the CRF,” Allard said. “Recoupment of the misappropriated CRF will conceivably double the community’s tax burden to $312 million plus interest, penalties and legal fees. Of the estimated 110K household in the MOA, the per household tax burden would increase by over $2,800. Granted, these figures do not include the burden assumed by our local businesses, and how this will affect the local labor market. For an economy already struggling this is an unacceptable risk. We need to be good stewards of tax payer money.”

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is continuing its investigations into questionable expenditures by the Berkowitz Administration, including:

  • First Responder Payroll Reserve
  • ASD blended Pre-K classrooms
  • RuralCap weatherization Jobs Program
  • Construction of a new Girdwood Health Clinic
  • Public Lands Jobs Program to hire individuals to help improve or expand softsurface trails and other shovel-ready projects in Girdwood and Eagle River
  • Energy Efficiency Jobs Program
  • Nine Star’s Net-2-Ladder Project
  • Covenant House Expansion Program
  • AWAIC Expansion
  • Child Care Assistance Program
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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • So the questions are screened? How convenient!

  • Wow, talk about lawlessness! Hey, Berkowitz will be gone come April, so EVERYONE can use the Mayor’s logic and open up your Diner, Bar etc. Screw his Mask Mandate too. After all Berky is a short timer!

  • Come on, man. (Biden’s trademark line). Don’t you Conservatives know how to have any fun? Use CARES money and purchase the Golden Lion. The homeless can learn how to dance in the nightclub, eat in the restaurant, and get fresh linen every night. Room service too. Quit being so square. The homeless deserve equal opportunity and equal rights under the 5th and 14th Amendments. Let’s get this party started. Maybe the Municipality can purchase the Sheraton too. BMW dealership next door. Free transportation?

  • This money should be used to help all these businesses that he has ordered closed. Not anything on his list has to do with COVID .

  • Looks like Berky and the Assembly are dead set on violating federal law. They’re trying to twist and spin and pervert what they’re doing into sounding like a legal use of Covid money, but they are dead set on emulating the failed “homeless in hotels” from San Francisco. We need to hold them accountable for their malfeasance. We have enough at this point to start recall petitions for all these people. It’s time to completely replace these TDS infected, social justice warriors calling themselves our Assembly.

  • The sale of ml&p money can be used to house and treat our homeless. The IG does not decide on this. There’s no reason to believe that the dept of treasury will disallow these purchases when several states have already done so. This is all legal. So wear your masks and sit tight. I’m sorry you don’t want to help out this population.

    • “Helping” this population means forcing them to become functional productive human beings, not enabling their dysfunction to continue living in and forcing the rest of society to live in their filth. This does not take great funds, only a firm hand. A child wants to play with fire, do you give them matches and send them to the garage and encourage them to ‘have fun’? Well a liberal probably does, as we are seeing in Paradise Portland.

    • He can’t use COVID funds to purchase those hotels, he was told so by the Treasury Dept IG. If he and the assembly use the CARE funds for that purpose they are violating federal law and they should all be locked up.

      • The IG does not have this authority, only the Treasury Department.

        • The IG making the decision IS the one working for the Treasury.

          Pretty much ever Federal Department has their own IG.

        • The IG is the arm of any agency for oversight to combat fraud waste and abuse by individuals or agencies that have shown contempt of or try to bypass laws or in this case legislation designed to help businesses directly affected by the Governments illegal shutdown of our economy. The IG can and should in this blantant attempt to defraud the American Taxpayers request Federal Marshalls intervene on behalf of the the taxpayer. Rivera is mistaken to think they can just bypass Federal Officials with something that clearly does not fall under guidelines of the CARES Act.

    • Why don’t you fund it if you feel the need?

    • The mayor/muni can use that ML&P and alcohol tax toward this cause – it’ll get them at least one property purchased. They can’t, and shouldn’t use CARES Act money to fund a project that has nothing to do with COVID, and all to do with a problem that has developed over decades, not in the last 6 months. The mayor is choosing to help a very small part of the population, sacrificing the needs of tax payers and business truly impacted by COVID. If you are barking up the “you don’t want to help the homeless” tree Pati, you are in the wrong forest.

      • All of you are acting as if the legal use of this money has already been decided. The Treasury Department will render a decision. Many cities in ALaska and across the United States have already used COVID funds for similar purposes.

        • Pati, give a specific example where purchase of a property or land for permanent housing for homeless populations was approved in a city in another state using CARES Act money. There are criteria for temporary housing for COVID mitigation/space issues — but permanent housing? Planned and budgeted before COVID hit?

    • As well as the alcohol tax. That was what it was partially intended for. Who of these people have financial interests in these buildings. Follow the money.

  • Mayor B. will use the Cares money to buy the buildings for the home less. If required at a later date to return the money to the FEDS…the assembly will just raise property taxes to cover it.
    That’s the plan folks
    If you want more of this then vote Ethan Berkowitz for Governor and
    FORREST DUNBAR FOR MAYOR

  • Komrade Ethan and the Central Committee are betting the farm that Joe “who-am-I?” Biden gets elected and will whitewash everything. They will make it sound nicer than that, but in the end, that is the message. This is what Bubba Bill Clinton did when he was impeached for perjury: He said “well, we will just have to win then.” The import of this was that principles be screwed, it was just going to be a political battle. Komrade Ethan is thinking the same thing. It’s just how people are educated at Harvard.

    • That’s the biggest reason why Anchorage citizens need to vote, vote, vote. Go RED. Go Republican. Go fiscal conservative. Go old-fashioned. Who in this city is actually looking out for the community? This is not a charity. This is a city. Of course, we would all be doing more to support our already-existing charities if we weren’t all facing homelessness ourselves! Sacrificing the engine of our economy (locally) in exchange for what, exactly? No long term plan. No plan at all!! None needed. Fire them ALL. Start at the top, work your way down, and clean up our state politics.

  • A press conference with no press.

    Can’t make this stuff up.

    Treasury Must have a judge available for an injunction.

    Convene a grand jury and indict the diminutive dictator for federal malfeasance.

  • Post a photo of the Mayor and the simple people immediately respond with childish insults. Every time. Without fail. It reminds me of the third grade when we called each other Fatso, Fag, Four- Eyes, Midget, or best of all, some totally racist term. Adults now use new words like diminutive, dictator, or Komrade. As our President would say, “you’re a loser. A nasty person. Sad.”

  • Unbelieveable!!!!! Anchorage, support and retain Jamie Allard on the assembly and fire all the rest. Your little dictator cannot continue his reign of terror without them backing him up! That runt has a superiority complex!

  • This what you get when you get criminals elected that place no value on the money people have worked hard for and the city takes in taxes every year, with near zero benefit to the taxpayer.

  • The Treasury IG should immediately dispense Federal Marshall’s to arrest the Mayor and the 9 Assembly members if one penny is spent on this. Also the taxpayer should not bear the burden of repayment if spent. The 9 Assembly members and the Mayor should. Time that these crooks be called out.

  • I think the damage is done & no “control” can undo it.

  • Stunning journalism.

  • The Inspector General can refer the issue for criminal prosecution.
    .
    Respectfully ask Jamie Allard to share details with the IG that will result in referral.
    .
    Why Jamie? Productive Anchorage residents don’t have any other representation on the Assembly.
    .
    Of course property-tax payers will pick up the tab if this money can’t be misappropriated from the feds. First, it seems reasonable to expect Somebody Important’s been promised lucrative contracts for bum housing.
    .
    Second, Anchorage’s Assembly forced its easily corruptible mail-in ballot system on voters to assure no bond, tax, or incumbent gets left behind.
    .
    Now they have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enshrine this scam for all time by registering bums to vote using these places as bums’ physical addresses. Of course helpful folks will help bums vote correctly, harvest and mail their votes, especially if they don’t have stamps.
    .
    Eaglexit can’t happen soon enough. Might be fun to watch what happens if their brethren south of, say, Tudor Road go with them.

  • No matter which way the election goes in November, Berkowitz will still be dealing with trump administration all the way to the end of the year as a new president wouldn’t take office until January 20, 2021.

  • Little ethan is a typical democrat ‘lame duck’. Trying to do the most damage possible before the bell rings and he is out of ‘office’. The diminutive ‘dictator’ wanna-be is pulling out the stops on his anti-Alaskan/American policies before his time runs out in the near future. His ‘press conference’ with no press is a typical leftist ploy. Conservatives have the upper hand after the midget’s tyranny has delivered nothing but animosity. Go for it, Anchorage citizens. Put the little fool at the back of the bus, where he and his agenda belongs.

  • So predictable. The Mayor and Assembly make bad decisions. The public speaks out against their insane liberal actions. The Assembly libs call us “RACISTS.” Will this gaslighting of our community by out-of-touch liberals ever end? Only when the are replaced by rational citizen reps. It is up to the voters of Anchorage to swing this pendulum back for far-left crazy-ness. Do not let us continue down the road towards becoming a Seattle or Portland.

    • As a resident who did NOT vote for the liberals in the mayor’s and assembly seats, I cannot agree more with your statement here. God help us all.

  • Remove by impeachment; charge with misappropriation of government funds; contradicting the First Amendment of the Constitution.
    Further, how is “racism” relevant to the CARES act.
    This Mayor and his Democratic assembly have lost their ‘noodles’.

  • Note the Berk’s personal *bio-hazard* mask, carelessly placed on public property, AGAIN. We’re too busy going after the intangibles, maybe it’s time to start keeping a tally of his oblivious disregard for personal hygiene and public health.

  • Hats off to Assembly member Allard. She is spot on with her statements. Peaceful protesters demanding we open up our city are not “racists” no matter how many times liberals say it. Glad she is pushing against the potentially illegal use of CARES money. It is time for a drastic change in leadership, both at the mayoral and Assembly level.

  • Berkowitz and his unmerry band of evil doers are determined to go against the will of the people and even the federal government. Why are they so enamored of the homeless, showing favoritism to this group of unproductive people over hard-working Alaskans? These federal funds are targeted for suffering businesses and others impacted by the ridiculous Covid shutdowns. I drove through Anchorage a few days ago and was shocked by the shuttered and bleak atmosphere, reminiscent of ghost towns of old. This is your legacy, Berkowitz. Oh yes, and enough with the racism garbage! It doesn’t even exist in the old south anymore. The only place you’ll find racism today is in the democrat party. They are obsessed with it!

  • The longer this goes on, the more of a petty tyrant Mayor B becomes. Well… not becomes, because he was always a petty tyrant, this is just making it more and more obvious.

    Just look at the things he says whenever challenged. It is all what you would expect from a petty, childish, tyrant wannabe.

  • Excellent news coverage. Well met! And the comments are 100% together in concensus. Anchorage has a lib/Dem infestation, and they’re chewing at the structural framing. If something isn’t done, the whole thing is coming down.
    Counting on Biden winning? The country is appalled by him! Only Trump hate fuels his base, certainly not him or his ideas. How can they not see a Trump landslide, except that they cheat, as usual?
    Too bad we don’t still grab these grubby leaders, dunk em in tar ( or honey, for the whiners), and feather them, then ride em on a rail outta town.
    Govt. Used to fear an irate citizenry.

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