Deadlines approaching for city economic relief grants

Application deadline extended for rent, mortgage relief program

Two of the city’s several financial relief grant programs — for commercial fishermen and local homeowners and renters — are still open and accepting applications.

The Fishermen Economic Relief Grant Program (FERG) allocates financial relief money to local commercial fishermen and vessel owners who have been negatively impacted by the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. All coronavirus relief grants put out by the City of Homer are funded through CARES Act funds handed down by the federal government and the state.

The deadline to apply to the FERG program is Sunday, Nov. 29. Program director Sara Perman said during the Homer City Council’s Monday meeting that this deadline was meant to accommodate the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

The city council allocated $1.3 million to the program, to be given out in grants of either $1,000 0r $2,000. A single commercial fisherman and vessel owner could be eligible for up to $8,000 in financial relief. The city is offering up to $2,000 per vessel owner or captain, up to $1,000 per commercial fishing permit holder, and up to $1,000 per crew member (up to five crew members).

As of Monday, the city had received 220 applications to the commercial fishing grant program, Perman told the council. Of those, 51 had been approved (but not yet funded), 24 were still pending and 22 had been denied, according to the economic relief grant programs report in Monday’s city council packet. According to the report, applicants were denied if they didn’t meet residency requirements or if they did not moor their vessel in the Homer Harbor at any point during 2020.

According to the report, 115 applications are still pending review. In all, $1.1 million has been requested through applications, out of the total $1.3 million allocated to the program. Perman said during Monday’s council meeting that these grants will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. She encouraged people to submit their applications sooner than later.

“However, I would say history to this point in time is that we get lots of applications in on the very last day,” Perman said.

The deadline to apply for FERG is Nov. 29, unless all the available funds are awarded before that date, at which point the program will end.

The second financial relief grant that’s still open to applicants is the Mortgage and Rent Relief Grant Program (MARRG). The council allocated $763,200 to this program to give to people living inside city limits to help with current, past due or future rent or mortgage payments for a period of six months. Payments from this grant program go directly to the landlord or lender, not to the applicant.

The original deadline to apply for this program was Nov. 29, but Special Projects and Communications Coordinator Jenny Carroll recommended to the council during its Monday meeting to extend that deadline. The process of approving households for the grants has been moving a little slowly, she said. The city had partnered with the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation to administer the program — the AHFC is the entity actually contacting applicants and reviewing applications.

Carroll reported to the council that AHFC recently had a staff member test positive, which caused the building to be cleared and the team working on program applications to lose about 48 hours of work time last week.

“I think it might be wise to bump that application period out at our grant agreement with AHFC to somewhere in the first week in December or so,” Carroll said.

The council gave Carroll permission to coordinate with AHFC to set a new deadline in December, to give their staff and grant applicants more time.

So far, a total of 138 people have applied to the rent and mortgage relief grant program, Carroll reported. Of those, two households have been paid so far for a combined total of $5,760 given out. There are another eight households for whom payment is pending, eight households whose applications are being processed, and another 37 who have been contacted by AHFC to start their application review. There are 83 applicants who have yet to be contacted, Carroll reported.

Also at Monday’s council meeting, Perman gave a report on the results of the second round of the city’s grant program for nonprofit organizations. The Nonprofit Economic Relief Grant Program had an initial round, and the city approved a second round which ran from Oct. 26 through Nov 8.

The second round of the nonprofit relief program got 27 applications, Perman reported. Of those, only three were denied, either because the nonprofits did not serve city residents or because they had received more funding in 2020 than in either 2018 or 2019.

The city awarded a total of $312,524 to the 24 applicants that were approved, out of a total $516,927 that had been allocated to the program.

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