Responding to the coronavirus pandemic was the central theme of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Sate of the City address Sunday evening, and he called on the federal government to provide more aid to the affected nation.
“I’ve never before hesitated to assure you that our city is strong, but I won’t say those words tonight,” Garcetti said. “Our city is under attack. Our daily life is unrecognizable. We are bowed and we are worn down. We are grieving our dead, but we are not broken nor will we ever be.”
Garcetti called on the federal government to use Section 8 housing resources to help homeless people stay off the streets once they leave temporarily shelters or hotels and motels where they’ve self-isolated.
He said evictions and foreclosures should be stopped across the nation during the pandemic, which Los Angeles has already implemented, although people will still need to pay back the rent they owed while unable to work.
“I believe that Los Angeles will inspire the groundwork for a future that is much better than `normal’ ever was,” he said, adding that Angelenos voted to use their own money to fund homeless housing. “I called for a FEMA-level response to our homelessness crisis almost two years ago, and it took this virus to finally get the federal funding to begin to make it happen.”
Garcetti also said the federal government needs to help the nation’s cities that have made significant expenditures to assist their residents and cut jobs due to crashing revenue during the pandemic. He also called for a national infrastructure bill and to make college free.
The mayor said the test for Angelenos and the nation will be how they come back to daily life once the pandemic subsides, and he reiterated quotes former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the U.S. clawed its way out of the Great Depression.
“That spirit we have felt each night at home and across our neighborhoods and across this city, that is the spirit that must move our economic recovery and our commitment to heal an unjust world,” Garcetti said.
Some of the major declines in revenue the city has experienced are through its airports, which have seen a 95% reduction in air traffic, as well as tourism and entertainment industries that have been temporarily shuttered.
The Port of Los Angeles has also been operating at about 75% to 85% compared to last year since the pandemic affected global trade.
Garcetti said the measures the city took to keep people at home were “drastic” but necessary.
“The lessons of history taught us that the cities that acted slowest during pandemics suffered the most, in the toll paid both in lives and livelihoods,” the mayor said. “We asked you to sacrifice and to help save lives, knowing that it would be a blow to your stability and your income, but knowing that not doing this would be far, far worse.”
As the city shut everything down short of grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses deemed essential, Garcetti said it could be months before people are able to safely gather in large groups once again.
Garcetti said Thursday that “every department will be expected to make cuts,” although the police and fire departments will be largely spared in terms of personnel reductions. However, he warned that those agencies “are not immune from managing their money, cut and make sure we don’t have any fat.”
The city government is currently under a hiring freeze, and the mayor said that will continue “in the coming year.”
The city may face an economic downturn worse than the 2008 recession, and as many as 300,000 Los Angeles residents may be unemployed right now, he said.
City Controller Ron Galperin has estimated the city will fall about $231 million short in projected revenue this fiscal year, and as much as $598 million next year. He said the shortfalls will strain the city’s ability to provide services and will require “some very difficult budgeting decisions” this year and in the future.
Councilman Paul Krekorian, who chairs the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, noted that the city has been building its reserves in recent years, helping to offset the steep financial losses now being seen.
“I’m really proud of the fact that we … the council and two mayors now, have spent so much time and energy developing that reserve fund so that we would be prepared for a rainy day,” Krekorian said. “And it is very stormy right now.”
Garcetti is slated to present his budget proposal Monday, documents for which will be available at 1 p.m. either on the mayor’s website at lamayor.org or the city’s at lacity.org, and his office said the mayor will address the city’s finances during his daily coronavirus update at 5:15 p.m.
Sunday marked exactly one month since the city’s Safer at Home orders were issued.
Garcetti kicked off the State of the City with a video that he narrated showing images of people working through the coronavirus pandemic, featuring mostly health care workers, warehouse workers and volunteers.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: