Pandemic to affect City economy for next five years, Mayor Peduto says


Screenshot via the City of Pittsburgh, Office of the Mayor

Mayor Bill Peduto predicts Pittsburgh City Government will feel the financial effects of the pandemic for the next five years.

By Priya Ray, Staff Writer

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Mayor Bill Peduto predicted Pittsburgh will be feeling the financial effects of the pandemic for the next five years, despite the City’s $85 million reserve budget mentioned during a Thursday press conference, which focused on the City’s fight against COVID-19.

“The planning for our new future means coming to terms with dark days ahead for our City’s budget,” Peduto said. “The financial picture is still bleak — there will be a shortfall of tens of millions of dollars this year.”

Peduto offered both reassurance and warning during his speech. The City, much like the world, is facing the harsh effects of the pandemic, Peduto said, and it is difficult to predict what the future will hold with much certainty.

According to Peduto, though, the City has been working to maintain resources that allow the community to function. Public Safety has continued to respond to emergencies, permits, licenses, and inspections (PLI) maintaining road and building safety, as well as the Department of Parks and Recreation is providing more than 10,000 grab-and-go meals to children and seniors.

“Our critical [minority] communities are facing pain and hardship beyond what most of us are facing at home,” Peduto said. “We are working with Allegheny County to protect our homeless residents by installing handwashing stations, portable water encampments and securing hotel rooms in the event such residents develop COVID-19 symptoms.”

In order to help local business survive in the current financial climate, Peduto said, the City’s economic development agency is providing loans for small businesses.

“Our friends at the Urban Redevelopment Authority continue to work to provide help for small businesses despite diminishing resources and have reported huge calls for minority and women-owned businesses,” Peduto said. “[The URA] has made 79 loan approvals, 54 of them to minority and women-owned businesses [with a total of] $1.1 million.”

According to Peduto, the City is currently focused on helping its citizens get through the pandemic safely, though it has irreversibly redefined the new normal.

“We must address all related and underlying disparities,” Peduto said. “Utilizing our tech and medical industry, we can create greater accessibility to quality healthcare for all.”

He emphasized that Pittsburgh’s medical industry has not been as overwhelmed as other cities, with reports that as of yesterday, there were still 327 available ICU beds and 835 ventilators in Allegheny County. He applauded health care workers risking their lives to help those in need. 

“I can’t thank our amazing workforce enough,” Peduto said. “They share the same anxieties and pressures other City residents do, but have kept providing the public services their neighbors need. We’ve done our best to keep them safe while performing their critically needed work.”

Peduto thanked citizens for remaining home, stressing that their social distancing measures have contributed to slowing the rapid spread of the virus and flattening the curve. 

“In the times we do go out, we’re following Gov. Wolf’s advice to wear masks at all times,” Peduto said. “It hasn’t been easy, but it has saved lives.”

According to Peduto, when medical experts give consent to return to normal life, it will be done so very slowly. Peduto could not offer a definite timeline for when and how these measures would be enacted. 

The mayor said he is confident that Pittsburgh’s many years of city planning will allow its recovery from any economic shortcomings. However, he stressed that nonprofits and corporate cooperation will be necessary for the greater good of the community. 

“No city is better poised to recover than Pittsburgh,” Peduto said. “We will become better and stronger than ever.”