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Port of Oakland COVID-19 response enters new phase

[ May 22, 2020   //   ]

It’s time to address the financial impact of coronavirus, Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan said. In a widely distributed video, the Port executive said his organization is readying countermeasures to offset crippling revenue declines. His stated aim: keep the Port and its Oakland International Airport operational.
“We’ve taken a three-phase approach to combatting coronavirus,” the Executive Director said during a taped Zoom interview posted on the Port’s website, intranet and blog and sent to media worldwide. “First, we minimized the exposure of staff and the public to the coronavirus, then we assessed the impact on our operations and now, we’re ready for phase three where we implement solutions to ensure financial sustainability.”
According to the Executive Director, the Port anticipates reduced operating income for Fiscal Year 2020. It’s projecting a financial loss in FY 2021. The cause: a 95 percent reduction in Airport passenger traffic, coupled with a milder downturn in Seaport cargo volume.
“Many businesses facing that kind of drop-off in activity would probably close down, but we can’t, we have to keep operating because we’re considered essential infrastructure,” Mr. Wan explained. “So, we’re looking at what else we must do.”
The Executive Director explained that the Port, unlike other public agencies, doesn’t receive tax funds. That means it finances operations solely from the revenue it generates. Business reversals at the Airport and Seaport have “put a hole in the budget,” Mr. Wan said.
Mr. Wan said the Port would respond with austerity measures that include:
• the suspension of hiring and travel;
• drastic curbs on discretionary spending and the use of contractors; and
• slashing capital improvement budgets.
Mr. Wan didn’t offer a timetable for business recovery, blaming the fast-changing nature of the coronavirus pandemic. He said if conditions worsen, further cost-cutting measures would follow.
The Executive Director said Airport and Seaport operations have continued uninterrupted throughout the pandemic, despite shelter-in-place restrictions. He credited employees for stepping up to an unprecedented challenge.
“The Port staff is responding beautifully,” Mr. Wan said. “I’m grateful that we’re working together to keep the Port of Oakland operating as an essential service.”

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