Durkan Digest: New Seattle economic forecast highlights the significant impact of the pandemic

SEATTLE – This week, the City Budget Office released [its] latest economic forecasts and revenue projections for Seattle. Although there is still much uncertainty about the total economic impact of this pandemic, what we know for certain that the effect on our workers, small businesses, nonprofits, and artists will be felt deeply for months and years to come. It will be tough, but just as Seattle has overcome challenges in the past, we will overcome this too.

Before this pandemic, a mere eight weeks ago, Seattle had 3% unemployment and one of the most booming economies in the country. The new forecasts show a new devastating reality that will continue in the following weeks and months: significant job loss, high unemployment and significant impacts to the City budget, including a potential $300 million reduction in revenue for 2020. This is approximately a 20% loss in our general fund for this year alone.

Understanding that our sales tax and business taxes would face significant impacts, I asked City departments in March to put a hold on or cut nonessential and non-COVID-19-related hiring, travel, spending, and contracts. While this will create significant savings, the City must work to rebalance our budget while also [providing] additional resources for the crisis response to the most vulnerable in our community. The truth of the matter is, we have some tough decisions ahead of us. Those decisions will be made thoughtfully, and we will continue to prioritize the needs of those who need support the most.

To help our businesses, workers, and most vulnerable at scale, the City’s efforts alone won’t be enough. An important part of both assistance and recovery is resources from the state and federal governments, and I will continue to do everything possible to get the region the resources we need to get through this pandemic and to rebuild a strong, equitable city.

As we think about the 2020 budget, the City’s continued crisis response to COVID19, preparing to reopen, and long-term recovery, my team is focused on three priorities: decreasing the community spread [of] COVID-19, creating plans to reopen that prioritize worker and community safety, and short-term assistance and long-term economic recovery for our workers and businesses.

My office and I will continue to focus on actions that get workers, families, and small businesses the relief they need. This week alone, we opened the doors of our libraries to increase the number of hygiene locations available to those experiencing homelessness, put a cap on the fees delivery app companies charge so more money can go directly to small businesses, and transmitted a plan to City Council to put $14 million towards rental assistance, small businesses and meals


As always, remember to stay home and stay healthy. And, if you need to leave your house, be smart about it by keeping six feet from other people and wearing a mask.

Delivery Fee Cap and Relief for Small Business
The mayor signed an executive order putting a 15% commission cap on third-party delivery service companies and requiring that 100% of tips go to drivers. The announcement builds on measures over the last two months by the mayor to help small businesses during the pandemic. The necessary statewide “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order caused restaurants to rely solely on delivery and takeout services for revenue, and many restaurants use third-party delivery services to meet the needs of their customers and keep their staff safe. The 15% commission cap will remain in place until restaurants are allowed to offer dine-in service in the city of Seattle.

Mayor Durkan and the City of Seattle have worked to implement a series of actions that support artists, nonprofits, small businesses, and workers, including:

” Deferring utility payments for customers impacted by COVID-19;

” Implementing a temporary moratorium on residential, small business, and nonprofit evictions to provide relief for working people financially impacted by COVID-19;

” Creating temporary restaurant loading zones to facilitate curbside pickup at restaurants;

” Announcing a small business relief package that included deferred business taxes and a $2.5 [million] stabilization fund;

” Creating a new Arts Recovery Package to provide immediate financial relief to artists and cultural organizations that have been impacted by COVID-19;

” Providing 6,250 Seattle families and 1,800 workers with $800 in grocery vouchers;

” Providing rent relief to tenants of city-owned facilities

” Partnering with United Way of King County and King County to invest $5 million in rental assistance to help families stay in their homes; and

” Building the #SupportSeattleSmallBiz map to help residents find restaurants, bars, cafés, and breweries offering takeout or delivery in their neighborhood.

The City has also created a comprehensive resource page for residents and small businesses impacted by COVID-19 [www.seattle.gov/mayor/covid-19]. This page will be updated as more information becomes available.

Parks, Farmers Markets, and Stay Healthy Streets
Last weekend, the City announced additional guidelines for safe use of city parks, greenways, and local farmers markets. As part of the #KeepItMoving campaign, the City allowed major parks to remain open throughout the weekend but required that residents keep moving and not play sports, picnic, or barbecue. City also opened two neighborhood greenways in West Seattle and the Central District to allow safe exercise opportunities free of cars.

The City also granted U District and Ballard farmers markets one-time permits to operate. We saw vendors and customers alike largely following physical distancing guidelines and innovation from vendors, including drive-throughs, prepacking, and quick transactions. There were a few changes that needed to be made on-site to accomplish physical distancing requirements, but with the markets associations’ partnership, these changes were quickly implemented. The farmers markets continue to be collaborative and responsive partners, and we look forward to our ongoing work together in these unprecedented circumstances.

Customer compliance is critical to ensuring the continued operation of our famers markets. If you plan on shopping at a farmers market this weekend, please make sure to follow mandatory physical distancing measures. Before you shop, please review this list of customer responsibilities and expectations [https://bit.ly/2zFpQ83]. Farmers markets are such beloved community hubs, and they provide affordable, healthy food for residents across our city. We’re so grateful for the [service] they provide our residents, and we appreciate that residents are adjusting quickly to new public health guidance and expectations.

Following the success of last weekend’s Stay Healthy Streets program, this weekend we are opening up six additional miles of calm residential streets to allow for safe social distancing while walking, rolling, running, skating, and biking. Greenwood,?Othello and Rainier Beach, and?Beacon Hill?communities?will be able to?access essential services, recreate, and walk their dogs?near their homes?while?protecting their neighbors by keeping six feet apart?24/7

We’re also?extending the Central District?route?to include?E.?Columbia St., creating?a total of?nine?miles?of Stay Healthy streets.?Stay Healthy streets?builds?off the?196 miles of Seattle’s bike facilities?and trails [https://bit.ly/35bU1zg]. Read more about the Stay Healthy Streets program on the SDOT Blog


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Courtesy of the Seattle Office of the Mayor

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