South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

Mayor William Peduto Addresses Pittsburgh on COVID-19 Pandemic

 

April 21, 2020



Mayor William Peduto made the following remarks at the end of last week regarding the City of Pittsburgh's ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

"Good afternoon Pittsburgh.

One month ago today we declared a state of emergency and issued an Executive Order limiting public gatherings in response to the coronavirus pandemic here in Western Pennsylvania. Today I want to take a few minutes to say thank you to all of you have been staying home and working successfully to flatten the curve.

Once we saw this global pandemic coming our way, we made the tough sacrifices together to do what was necessary to keep our neighbors safe: it started with canceling our beloved St. Patrick's Day Parade, closing city playgrounds and recreation spaces, committing ourselves to social distancing, and most of all just staying home.

In the times we do go out, we're following Governor Wolf's latest advice to wear masks at all times.

It hasn't been easy but it has saved lives, and it's no time to stop now.

Despite all this, your city government has been in continuous operation. Public safety is responding to emergencies, DPW is collecting refuse, DOMI and PLI are keeping roads and buildings safe, and we've provided over 10,000 meals to children and seniors.

I can't thank our amazing workforce enough. 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, going above CDC standards by providing masks and PPE to our front-line workers, thoroughly cleaning their facilities, and allowing other city employees to work from home. Their services to you will continue through this pandemic and beyond. The City of Pittsburgh does not close.

Our work couldn't be done without the support of private employees throughout the Pittsburgh area. That includes people working in warehouses, trucking, grocery and convenience stores, those cleaning buildings and hospitals, nurses, doctors, hospital workers, bus drivers, pharmacists, restaurant workers and so many more. Many of these workers are in turn protected by our great union partners and I want to thank them too.

Our meds-and-eds industry has long been at the heart of Pittsburgh and that continues in the planning and preparation for the coronavirus: as of yesterday, there were still 327 available ICU beds in the county, and 835 ventilators. Pittsburgh's leadership and expertise in this area is something we can be justly proud of. We have not yet experienced a surge that has overwhelmed our medical industry as many other cities have.

Employers and others in the corporate and foundation communities deserve our thanks too. That includes the restaurants and other food providers helping us feed our kids and seniors; the universities working tirelessly on cutting-edge research; and the foundations doing all they can to plug holes in our social safety net.

Those holes, however, are daunting and our critical communities are facing pain and hardship beyond what most of us are facing at home.

We are working with Allegheny County to protect our homeless residents, by installing handwashing stations and potable water in encampments, and by securing hotel rooms in the event such residents develop COVID-19 symptoms.

We recognize the emotional impact the pandemic is having on everyone, and is especially being felt disproportionately by communities that have long experienced trauma. Don't be afraid to ask for help - we're here for you.

We are working with nonprofit partners to make sure we are reaching new Americans, both documented and undocumented, to get them the health care and financial support they need. We are working with police and nonprofits to address rising cases of domestic violence. We are working too on the rise of drug overdoses, and have expanded the practice of leaving behind life-saving Narcan.

While working on these daily matters my administration continues to plan for what happens next, when medical experts give us the go-ahead to slowly return to our normal lives.

For city government that means continuing to approve zoning permits to allow construction and neighborhood development projects to hit the ground running when it's safe; working to allow swimming pools to reopen safely at some point this summer; working with employers to provide youth with summer jobs through our Learn and Earn program; and continuing to offer meals for those who are hungry.

Our friends at the URA continue to work to provide help for small businesses, despite diminishing resources, and have reported huge calls for help from minority and women owned businesses.

It has made 79 loan approvals (54 of them to minority and women owned businesses) worth $1.1 million, and has another 281 loan requests (211 of the from minority and women owned businesses) worth $3.7 million, and is searching continuously for further funding to grant them.

The URA is also overseeing city rental assistance to those in need, helping 52 homeowners so far with their rent and another 200 relief requests still in process. I can't thank enough those members of City Council who joined with me in 2017 to approve the Housing Opportunity Fund, which is paying for the rental help.

The planning for our new future includes coming to terms with dark days ahead for the City's budget. The bones of a strong budget remain from the hard lessons we learned through Act 47, but the financial picture is still bleak: there will be a shortfall of tens of millions of dollars this year, even taking into account our $85 million in reserves we have built up since 2014, which will then have heavy repercussions onto our next five years of budgets.

Large cuts to spending will likely be necessary - again, it will take the strength and perseverance of residents, workers and the greater Pittsburgh community to help us.

Years of city planning on resiliency going back to 2014 greatly helped us to prepare for the economic and public health shocks we're experiencing now. But nothing fully prepared us for this. At no point will the need be greater for major nonprofits, foundations and the corporate community to come together collectively to guarantee a Pittsburgh For All.

But we will get there. No city is more resilient or better poised to recover than Pittsburgh. We will become better and stronger than ever, just as we have when generational crises have rocked us in the past. We've been knocked to our knees before and always find a way to stand back up - it's in our DNA.

There will be a new normal, and we need to aim high.

We need to end the digital divide by making sure internet connectivity is as basic a right as electricity and gas. It is obvious that a laptop in a student's hand is as basic as pens and pencils were in the past.

The early childhood world will transform and never be the same again. Full funding for childcare and Pre-K education is essential.

As we see around the country this health crisis has had a disproportional impact on our African American neighbors, and we must address all related underlying disparities.

Utilizing our tech and medical industry we can create greater accessibility to quality health care for all.

We need to double-down on commitments on clean energy and zero waste, building a new and resilient future.

We need to ensure family-sustaining wages for all. As we have learned our essential workers are on the front lines and have long been undervalued.

We need to put Western Pennsylvanians back to work with a massive infrastructure bill to address our needs and let our people do what they have done for generations: rebuild America.

Finally, all of this can happen through The Pittsburgh Way:

Leveraging the lessons we are learning from the COVID-19 pandemic, we will forge new partnerships among labor, the business, foundation and nonprofit communities, and our federal, state and county leaders, to make our city stronger than ever. It will require sacrifice by all.

All of this will be fueled by Pittsburgh's single greatest resource: You."

 

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