Forrest Dunbar, running for reelection for Anchorage Assembly, fussed during a work session on Thursday that some candidates for Assembly say the taxpayers could be on the hook for $59 million in expenditures, if FEMA doesn’t reimburse the city for the tens of millions spent in its Covid-19 response.
Those candidates are wrong, he said, because FEMA has not said it won’t reimburse the city.
He was interrupted by Assemblywoman Jamie Allard, who stated it is inappropriate of Dunbar to mention campaigns or candidates during an official work session of the Assembly.
Dunbar is being challenged by Stephanie Taylor for the East Anchorage Assembly seat that is part of the current election, which ends April 5.
Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance butted in while Allard was speaking and defended Dunbar, saying he was just speaking factually.
“This is Ms. LaFrance, and I believe it is appropriate to provide factual information about the city’s financial situation here,” LaFrance said.
But Allard held her ground: “It is, Ms. LaFrance, if you’re not talking about candidates or running a campaign. I would ask him to refrain.”
Dunbar did stop his campaign talk, pivoting to say he had “heard in public the misunderstanding that we are at a $50 million deficit, and I appreciate that Ms. Frasca [OMB director] did not phrase it that way, because it is not our operating budget. It is a request we have made of FEMA that could take years to potentially be resolved.”
Listen to the exchange at this link.
During the meeting, OMB Director Cheryl Frasca advised the Assembly that the Assembly had used both an Emergency Order and an Administrative Order to expend funds relating to meeting the Covid-19 pandemic challenge.
“You did use an A.O. for $25 million worth of authorization to spend related to Covid. You also used an E.O. for $92 million — almost $93 million. So you’ve used both tools in the past to help meet Covid-related, hopefully FEMA reimbursed expenses,” Frasca said. She also said it didn’t matter to FEMA where the funds came from; for example if they were advanced out of alcohol tax revenues, that was not a concern to FEMA.
“We submit the receipts for what we spent to FEMA, they don’t look at the source of the funds,” Frasca said.
Listen to the work session at this link.