Nicole C. Brambila is an award-winning investigative journalist. A graduate of Texas State University, she began her journalism career two decades ago, reporting for various news outlets in the Lone Star State, Southern California and Pennsylvania. Prior to coming to PublicSource, she was a data reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and an investigative reporter for the Reading Eagle. Her recognitions include state, regional and national awards, including in 2017 being an IRE finalist for a soil study that found residences that should have been cleaned under a 2000 EPA order were contaminated with lead. A frustrated screenwriter, Nicole is currently writing a YA dystopian novel with her writing partner.
A statewide moratorium on new eviction filings for non-payment of rent, which was instituted in March in response to the pandemic, runs through July 10. Its impending end, amid continued economic uncertainty, has some advocates bracing to head off a potential flood of evictions. Evictions filed in Allegheny County prior to the moratorium — like one filed against Devyn for failure to pay rent in February — were frozen on March 16 but allowed to resume on June 2.
After five years of increases, overtime costs for Allegheny County dropped roughly 2% in 2019. Spending dropped from $30.1 million in 2018 to $29.5 million last year.
Overtime costs, however, have increased during the pandemic. The county spent about $700,000 more in overtime from March through May this year, compared to the same period in 2019, according to Allegheny County Budget and Finance Department Director Mary Soroka.
Pittsburgh spent about $252.7 million to pay 4,037 employees in 2019, a PublicSource review of salary data shows. That figure comprises salary, overtime and bonuses, and represents a roughly 7% increase over the 2018, when the city had 55 fewer employees.
Alistair McQueen’s 84-year-old alter drag ego – Mildred the Lunch Lady – has a soft spot for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning [LGBTQ] “kids,” as she calls them. If not for the pandemic shuttering in-person Pride celebrations this summer, McQueen – a 30-year-old out-of-work bartender from Lawrenceville – would have competed this month as Mildred at the Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic for a chance to win $15,000 for one of his favorite LGBTQ nonprofit organizations in Pittsburgh: Proud Haven. The grand prize would have provided a much-needed financial boost. Had McQueen won, the $15,000 would have been equivalent to roughly 40% of the organization’s budget this year, which has been decimated by its COVID-19 response to the community.
Since the economic shutdown, Proud Haven and other LGBTQ organizations in Pittsburgh have seen a surge in need.
“The people who would help us are not able,” said Debbie Scotto, who in 2013 with her daughter founded Proud Haven, a volunteer-led organization that helps LGBTQ youth in Pittsburgh experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity.
“The cash has really grown a lot thinner.”
But the need for safe places has swelled. Brogan McGowan, a Proud Haven board member, said the number of LGBTQ youth needing emergency shelter has doubled in the pandemic – from 18 people needing help the first half of 2019 to 38 people needing emergency housing in 2020 to date.
According to industry experts, disease forecasters, lawyers, lawmakers and advocates, the fallout from the unfolding failures at nursing homes will likely come on many fronts: civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions that could hobble the ability to provide quality care; budget cuts that threaten funding; and a possible contraction in facility ownership.
With the June 2 primary less than six weeks away, Allegheny County's shift from in-person to mail-in voting has election officials scrambling to process tens of thousands of applications for absentee ballots.
Update (5/13/2020): The city of Pittsburgh revised its budget deficit upwards and now is expecting a 25% decline in revenues, stemming from the coronavirus' effects on the economy. That equates to a loss of $31.9 million.
City departments are expected to do some belt tightening and cut 10% in non-personnel costs from spending.
“The City is holding its own through frugal spending but the gaps between our revenues and expenditures are likely to widen further,” Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement. “With the help of City Council and the leaders of all City departments we will have to keep a hard watch on spending until the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic become clearer.”
Payroll, parking, earned income and property taxes could drop $97 million this year. Update (5/4/2020): Mayor Bill Peduto announced a hiring freeze May 4 that will leave 64 open positions unfilled to save an estimated $3 million in salaries while the city addresses the financial strain of COVID-19.
As novel coronavirus cases are reported in the Pittsburgh area, PublicSource has compiled information on how local leaders and institutions are responding as public health experts urge residents to practice “social distancing” and avoid large gatherings.
Editor’s note: A reader wrote in to PublicSource about what local grocers are doing to restock and stay safe. Below we have some information from two of the area’s largest grocers and we will update if we get additional information. Email email@example.com with new questions. That hard-to-find case of water or package of toilet paper is getting restocked on shelves locally. But you might be limited to the number of packages you can snag on your next trip to the grocery store.