Pittsburgh’s District 6 Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle on the City’s legislative response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo of City Council Chamber by Ashlee Green

The month of August, when City Council goes into recess, marks the completion of the first half of the 2020 legislative cycle. It offers Council members an opportunity to prepare for the closing months of the year, to set legislative goals to be met before the start of the 2021 cycle, and to begin conversations on the City’s 2021 Capital and Operating budgets. 

Clearly, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a unique challenge to municipalities across the country. Coupled with the social unrest marked by the tragic killings of unarmed African Americans at the hands of law enforcement officers, which has highlighted centuries-old issues of racial injustice and inequity that we as a nation have failed to honestly address, it is my hope that 2020 will go down as a year in which we came together to rise to the call of action for positive change.

My last column highlighted a series of bills Councilman Burgess and I had introduced to improve public safety and the community’s confidence in the City’s police. I am happy to report that they have since all been approved by City Council. We can now affirm that Pittsburgh is a city in which chokeholds are expressly prohibited by law, a city that prohibits the acquisition of military equipment by the police, and a city that requires police officers to intervene and stop other officers from using illegal or unnecessary force. 

Council has also approved the creation of the Stop the Violence Fund, which requires the city to dedicate 10% of the police budget annually for funding evidence-based violence prevention and social service programs. For 2020, the Stop the Violence Fund will receive an allocation of $250,000 as approved by City Council. 

In response to the pandemic, Council authorized a grant agreement with Allegheny County for the receipt of coronavirus relief funds in the amount of $6,200,000. These will be used to reimburse eligible City expenditures related to the pandemic response. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has also established programs to assist businesses and residents through financial hardships brought on by the pandemic. These include the COVID-19 Hazard Pay Grant Program, which helps employers provide hazard pay to employees in life-sustaining occupations during the pandemic, and the Housing Stabilization Program, a housing crisis intervention program that provides one-time or short-term (up to three months) financial assistance to households with a temporary, non-recurring housing crisis. For more information on these resources, please visit the URA’s COVID-19 page.

R. Daniel LavelleCouncilman, District 6

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