A dispute between the Anchorage Mayor’s Office and the majority of the Assembly over whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse more non-disaster, shelter-related expenditures ended with the Assembly overriding the mayor’s veto of a $2.8 million appropriation the Assembly had made.
City Manager Amy Demboski said guidance from the State of Alaska was very clear, and was even put in all capital letters: There are sideboards on items that could be reimbursed with FEMA funds. She said there has to be a local emergency declared, and there is none at the present time.
Assemblywoman Jamie Allard warned her colleagues that the appropriation would end up on the back of Anchorage property taxpayers. It will not be reimbursed by the federal government, she warned.
City Attorney Mario Bird advised against taking the risk on the appropriations, backing up Demboski’s assessment that the expenditure won’t be reimbursed.
But that fell on deaf ears. On a vote of 9-3, the Assembly overrode the veto of Mayor Dave Bronson of a “loan” from the General Fund to the Covid fund of the $2.8 million for emergency sheltering costs due to Covid-19. The Assembly majority seems to think that associating the funds with Covid will somehow trick the federal government into reimbursing it. Voting against the veto override were Allard, Kevin Cross, and Randy Sulte.
Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar cautioned the Mayor’s Office, the city attorney, and the Assembly minority members against using language to describe the expenditure in such a way that it would become a “self-fulfilling prophecy” and result in the federal treasury not reimbursing the municipality.
In other words, Dunbar implied, he didn’t want anyone to say on the record that the Assembly is trying to defraud the federal government because that might cause FEMA to take notice and decide against reimbursement.
The liability for requesting a reimbursement falls on whoever signs the request for reimbursement from FEMA, and they can be held personally liable for the fraud. That likely means no one in the Administration will actually want to sign a request for reimbursement, since it would be such a great personal risk.