Port of Seattle Commissioners this week approved new COVID-19 recovery measures by committing an additional $3 million to community benefit programs.
The additional $3 million commitment will go to short-term, recovery programs that strengthen Port-related industries, create jobs, and spur spending in the regional economy. The investments will be evenly split between workforce development programs aimed at Opportunity Youth (youth between 16-24 from underserved communities) and investments to rebuild economic opportunity through tourism. The youth unemployment more than tripled from a typical 8 percent before the pandemic to 27 and 25 percent in April and May of 2020. Through the end of April, job losses within the leisure and hospitality sector represented 42 percent of all job losses in the state.
The new investments mark a 40 percent increase in the Port’s budget for community programs. The Port already budgeted $7.5 million in 2020 for community benefit projects focused on workforce development, community environmental and sustainability programs, economic development, and tourism marketing support.
The Port particularly aims to invest in traditionally underserved communities. The COVID-19 global pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to the entire region, but the communities the farthest from opportunity experienced the most harm.
The Commission motion also approved steps taken by Executive Director Steve Metruck to reduce the Port’s 2020 overall capital and operating budgets by over $70 million. In March, April, and May, Metruck led Port departments to reduce spending, re-prioritize capital projects, and implement a hiring freeze.
Despite the economic downturn associated with the global pandemic, the Port will maintain the vast majority of its planned capital spending. Earlier this year committed to maintaining $1.5 billion in current construction projects. Port construction work can directly generate 700 full-time direct construction jobs on average, per month, or 1,300 full-time and part-time jobs. Those jobs support over 1,100 more indirect and induced jobs through a network of suppliers and construction support.
The Port has also moved quickly to offer emergency financial relief to tenants in the form of rent and fee deferrals, barring evictions due to inability to pay rent as a result of COVID-19, extending and modifying leases, and cancelling minimum annual guarantees for airport dining and retail tenants.
The Port will continue evaluating its financial scenario and the best options for supporting long-term regional growth as it prepares its 2021 budget.
Peter McGraw | Media Officer
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