JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A proposed project in Alaska’s capital city would use federal coronavirus funds to help restaurants feed residents experiencing homelessness or food insecurity.
The Juneau Cares Act program administered by the United Way of Southeast Alaska would pay up to $1 million to restaurants to prepare and serve food to some of the city's most vulnerable residents, The Juneau Empire reported Sunday.
The program is designed to accommodate between 175 and 300 people per meal, with operating costs between $5 and $10 per meal depending on the form of preparation and service. The money would go to restaurants and their workers distributing the food.
The cost is calculated based on operation from July 1 to Dec. 31, when all federal coronavirus aid must be expended.
The program has been analyzed by the Juneau Economic Stabilization Task Force and the Juneau Economic Development Council. To begin operation, an ordinance would need to be drafted and passed by the Juneau Assembly. A possible time frame is unclear.
Max Mertz, co-chair of the economic stabilization task force, said the program would help feed hungry residents while putting food service employees back to work.
The program has widespread support from social service agencies and programs including the Glory Hall shelter, AWARE, St. Vincent de Paul Society of Juneau, and Juneau Youth Services.
Mariya Lovishchuk, executive director of the Glory Hall, said the Juneau Cares Act program could also address concerns among residents and downtown businesses about people eating on sidewalks.
“The motivation isn’t to keep the streets orderly, it’s to feed the hungry. The food program solves this,” Lovishchuk said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.