I recently had the opportunity to deliver my 5th “state of the city” address to Houston business and community leaders. While each one has been special, my 2020 speech, during an unprecedented year, is significant while we in the midst of a global pandemic, social and civil unrest, economic instability and a highly charged election season.
Since March, 196 meetings, conferences and conventions have been canceled or rescheduled which equates to an estimated economic loss to our city of $332 million. Businesses were forced to close and/or reduce capacity and many employees are working remotely. In the Houston Metropolitan area, 350,000 employees were laid off in March and April. The City’s revenue stream has been affected with a loss in sales tax and other revenue of over $107 million.
But what you cannot foresee and, in some cases, prevent, you simply must manage. I am doing that as mayor.
Since the first initial positive cases of coronavirus, the Houston Health Department has established free testing sites, hired over 300 contact tracers and established a mental health support line. The City also provided $35 million in rental assistance and $20 million in grants to small businesses to help with challenges caused by the pandemic.
I am proud to say that in September, we kicked-off the program to repair streets throughout the city. This year, city council unanimously passed a balanced budget with an 8% fund balance, without having to layoff or furlough municipal employees or first responders. Included in the budget is $15 million for a rainy-day fund and money for five police cadet classes
Over the last year, we have made tremendous progress in our goal to transform Houston into #Silicon Bayou. The Innovation District is already home to the ION, multiple startup support organizations; investors, major corporations, universities, civic and business leadership organizations downtown, all connected by a Metrorail line.
This year, we became one of only two mayoral offices in the nation to launch an Office for Adult Literacy advocacy, we held a virtual groundbreaking for the Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza, and we expanded the Mayor’s Office of Human Trafficking to help fight domestic violence.
Houston is a City that continues to transform, to innovate and to be an example for the rest of the country on how to be diverse, welcoming and inclusive. As we gradually take steps to reopen, we recognize that the full recovery will take several years, but when we work together, we put ourselves in the best position to manage the virus and rebound from it.
As we move forward through these unprecedented times, the City’s foundation is strong; the City itself is resilient; and the City’s future is bright. You can read more on the City’s website