Dec 3, 2020 - Economy

Mayors fear long-lasting effects of COVID-19

Data: Menino Survey of Mayors; Chart: Axios Visuals

U.S. mayors tend to be an optimistic bunch, but a poll released Thursday finds them unusually pessimistic about prospects for post-pandemic recovery.

Why it matters: In a survey of mayors of 130 U.S. cities with more than 75,000 residents, 80% expect racial health disparities to widen, and an alarming number predict that schools, transit systems and small businesses will continue to suffer through 2021 and beyond.

Details: The Menino Survey of Mayors, conducted annually by Boston University's Initiative on Cities (and named for former Boston mayor Thomas Menino), normally finds respondents upbeat about the future.

  • This year, 45% of mayors foresee "dramatic" cuts to school budgets, while 38% expect big cuts to parks and recreation and 35% to mass transit.
  • "Only around one-third expect small businesses that closed due to the COVID-19 economy will be quickly replaced by new ones," according to a news release.
  • The mayors paint a bleak outlook for city centers, with 60% anticipating a permanent reduction in in-person retail shopping and the same percent saying that downtown office buildings will become "less desirable."

The bottom line: "A lot of mayors think that it’s going to be a long time before they see a return to normal," Graham Wilson, director of B.U.'s Initiative on Cities, tells Axios.

  • "The mayors believe that they really need more fiscal help — that the CARES Act was not enough for cities, it was not enough for small businesses."
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