WATCH Mayor O'Connell'sState of the City Address
January 22, 2021
When I look back on 2020, the first thing I want to say is “thank God we made it.”
Baby boomers and those that followed have never seen anything like it. Our way of living has been totally turned upside down to try to put the brakes on a global pandemic that has claimed more than 375,000 lives in the United States, 18,000 of those in Pennsylvania and at least 150 residents of the city of Allentown.
New phrases like flatten the curve, social distancing and contact tracing, and advice like wear a mask, wash your hands often and use hand sanitizer became an everyday part of our lives.
We all know someone who either caught the virus or was quarantined. The effort to slow the spread resulted in significant disruption to our lives.
In the spring of 2020 Pennsylvania schools closed to in person learning for the remainder of the school year and Allentown public schools have remained closed as we begin the second half of the new school year.
There has not been hockey or concerts at PPL Center. Stages went dark and hotels became empty. Restaurants were closed to indoor dining.
We did not operate our summer playground program nor did we open our municipal pools or sponsor summer band concerts to comply with social distancing and crowd size guidance.
Traditions like the Great Allentown Fair, Blues, Brews and Barbecue, Lehigh Valley PRIDE, the St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween parades and so many ethnic and cultural festivals and celebrations had to be cancelled or go virtual.
With the support of City Council, we eased the burden by extending tax due dates to help property and business owners and put our CARES Act funding to good use.
We developed a $400,000 rental assistance program from 2019 HOME funds to assist tenants with rent payments to avoid eviction for a duration of three months.
The city created a $500,000 Small Business Stabilization Program offering grants of up to $5,000 to small neighborhood businesses that suffered financially from the pandemic. The program helped neighborhood businesses survive the health crisis and assist employers with emergency cash flow needs.
We expedited our permit process for outside dining by creating TOSA, our Temporary Outside Seating Application.
Working with our partners, we created an “Art of Encouragement” program, funding our local artists who produced art that inspires us during this COVID period. In efforts to promote our Allentown businesses we worked again with our local partners on a citywide marketing program to promote “Shop Local, Shop Safe, Shop Allentown.”
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