The past 20 months have been challenging for the budgets of many individuals and businesses in Ketchikan, in addition to the budgets of our local governments.

Opinions vary, but many people here are grateful for the variety of help that’s been available.

On Thursday, the Ketchikan City Council will consider making good use of two sources of money to plug a massive hole created in the Port of Ketchikan budget by the response to COVID-19.

It’s not news that the pandemic erased the 2020 cruise ship season, and reduced the 2021 season to a shadow of the pre-pandemic volume. And while everyone knows the situation has had wide effects throughout the community, it’s shocking to see some of the specifics.

The City of Ketchikan’s Port Fund, for example.

In 2019, a robust cruise season generated about $10.68 million for the fund, according to information in the City Council agenda packet for Thursday’s meeting. In 2020, the revenues were $82,144.

And 2021?

“The expected 2021 revenues of the Port Fund are approximately $1.35 million compared to the expected costs of $6.5 to $6.9 million,” City Finance Director Michelle Johansen wrote in a memo to the acting city manager.

So the Port Fund’s reserves are depleted. That means there’s not money available for operational expenses — which include a $1.8 million lease payment on Berth 4 and about $2.2 million in debt service for Berth 3 — until after the start of next year’s cruise season, according to agenda information.

The city is truly fortunate to have a potential solution, from two outside sources.

One of those is Norwegian Cruise Line. Earlier this year, NCL donated $10 million to communities in Southeast Alaska — $2 million of which went to the City of Ketchikan.

The other is the federal government. The city in early August received about $2.7 million in Commercial Passenger Vessel Excise Tax-American Rescue Plan Act funds.

To date, the city hasn’t made use of those funds. City staff now is recommending that the council approve using the money for the Port Fund.

“In order to support Port operational expenditures until appreciable revenues are realized in mid-2022, it is crucial that the available Norwegian Cruise Lines donation of $2,000,000 and the Commercial Passenger Vessel Excise Tax — American Rescue Plan Act funds of $2,723,867 be applied to the Port Fund,” Acting City Manager Lacey Simpson wrote in an Oct. 27 memo to the council. “Staff has examined the situation and believes utilizing these two outside funding sources are the only immediate means available to sustain the Port Fund into mid-2022.”

Two years ago, Ketchikan was anticipating an uninterrupted parade of large cruise ships visiting Alaska every season as we planned toward the accommodation of larger numbers in the near future.

A different reality arrived in March 2020.

The potential port funding is one example of how community has been fortunate to have outside help since then. With good fortune, the help can tide us over until the tide returns in our favor.