PUBLISHED: 5:20 PM on Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Aid on the way for residents, small businesses
JUNEAU - The Juneau Assembly approved an emergency resolution May 1 allocating $3 million to two local organizations to assist residents and small businesses during the ongoing energy crisis.

The assembly voted 8-1 to grant $2 million to the United Way of Southeast Alaska and $1 million to the Juneau Economic Development Committee (JEDC).

The decision to grant the funds came just three days after the Assembly came one vote shy of loaning the money to Alaska Electric Light & Power, which would have allowed the utility company to expand increased utility costs over a 12-month period.

The United Way has turned to the Catholic Community Service (CCS) to distribute the grant. Officials have been meeting about eligibility requirements and expect an application to be ready today, which will be posted online on various sites, including at CCS also is designating a phone line to assist with questions from residents by calling 463-6130.

CCS Executive Director Rosemary Hagevig said funds will go directly to AEL&P on behalf of individual residents who qualify for grants.

"We're trying to be fair to everyone concerned and to have a level of accountability true to the intent of the Borough," she said.

Officials with JEDC could not be reached.

Gov. Sarah Palin's Disaster Policy Cabinet met last week and decided not to recommend a disaster declaration for Juneau. Palin concurred with the cabinet's decision, meaning it is unlikely there will be federal assistance available.

United Way CEO Brenda Hewitt says the grant will help households below the poverty level, which in Juneau constitutes as those with a household income around $26,000 annually or less.

Granting the money to the non-profit groups means this months bills will reflect the 52 cents per kilowatt-hour rate, but AEL&P Director of Consumer Affairs Gayle Wood believes the money was sused well, even though it's not going to AEL&P as first expected.

"Had (the Assembly) loaned AEL&P the money, it would have reduced costs to a small extent," she said. "I think the money, as its been redirected, will better match their intentions. It will go to the people who need it the most."

Spreading the increased energy cost over a year span is still an option for some if an emergency tariff is passed, Wood said. The plan would be voluntary and will spread the rate increase over the next year.

"This type of program would work best for people who are consistently paying their bills on time," Wood said.

Large commercial businesses and government agencies will not qualify, she said.

Wood said AEL&P will continue to work with customers who have trouble paying their monthly bills on time.

Applications for assistance will be available at the Juneau Commission on Sustainability's city-wide conference "Re-Energizing Juneau" held at the Mendenhall Mall on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The latest breaking news and additional stories regarding Juneau's energy crisis will be posted online daily at