Councilman Lavelle discusses the Pittsburgh City Council’s introduction of legislation to ensure equity in the budgeting and allocation of $354 million dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds.

Photo: Office of Councilman Lavelle

Earlier this month, Councilman Lavelle and Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess introduced legislation to ensure that federal COVID-19 relief funds are spent equitably by the City of Pittsburgh. The legislation was successfully approved, and directed the Mayor to establish a Mayor/Council Task Force to oversee the spending of the federal recovery funds. It also requires the task force to specifically create an equity spending plan. The City of Pittsburgh will receive approximately $354 million dollars over the next two years from the federal government as part of the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA).

The crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath has disproportionately affected Black Pittsburghers and their communities. According to the CDC, Black Americans are 1.4 times more likely to contract COVID-19, 3.7 times more likely to be hospitalized as a result of COVID-19, and 2.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than their white counterparts. It is believed that this is due to underlying comorbidities among Black Americans, as well as increased exposure due to a disproportionate amount of Black Americans working in essential occupations.

Our city’s racial, economic, and geographic inequities are no mere moral challenge, but an existential threat to its long term resilience and prosperity. According to recent data from the National Equity Atlas, Pittsburgh’s economic output would be nearly $5 billion higher every year without the clear racial inequities in income. 

It should also be noted that the government of Pittsburgh has a legal and moral obligation to ensure that its services are provided to residents in the most equitable way possible. The goal of the task force is to ensure that federal COVID-19 funds are disbursed in such a manner. It will be the largest influx of cash in the City’s history. Committing these funds to equitable purposes will represent tangible proof of our commitment to making Pittsburgh a city for all, a city where Black Pittsburgh matters.

“We know COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on Black people in Pittsburgh,” noted Councilman Lavelle upon introduction of the legislation. “Black people have been disproportionately disaffected from infection rates and death rates to unemployment rates and business failure rates. So we must create this task force to ensure a racial equity lens is used in the disbursement of these funds. But more importantly, we must create an equity spending plan that improves the outcomes of Black communities, including increased affordable housing, employment, and entrepreneurship.”

R. Daniel Lavelle

Councilman, District 6   

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