Philadelphia skyline from South Street Bridge (DOUGH 4872, BRIAN W. SCHALLER VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/City & State Pa).
By Ayana Jones
PHILADELPHIA — While Philadelphia is making an economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the city still faces challenges, a new analysis from the Pew Charitable Trusts found.
The 2022 State of Philadelphia report focused on three main areas including public health, public safety and jobs and the economy.
“This is a snapshot in time in Philadelphia, particularly as we are coming out of the pandemic, although it is still present in people’s lives right now,” said Katie Martin, Pew senior manager. “I really hope that policy makers and city leaders will continue to use this data as they have conversations about how to address issues public safety and public health as our economy continues to recover from the pandemic.”
The report notes unemployment dropped in December 2021 to the same rate the city had before the pandemic and job growth in the professional and technical sectors returned to pre-pandemic levels.
From an economic standpoint, Martin said she found the uptick in requests for new residential building permits particularly interesting.
“There was a dramatic increase,” she said. “We went from about 6,600 in 2020 to 26,000 in 2021. The city really ties that to the end of the 10-year tax abatement which expired at the end 2021.”
She said more than half of those permit requests came in at the end of December, so they could be eligible for the abatement.
According to the report, safety remained a major concern for Philadelphia residents, threatening all aspects of the city’s return to pre-pandemic life.
In a 2022 Pew poll, 70% of residents cited the combination of crime, drugs and public safety as the biggest issue in Philadelphia.
While there were fewer assaults, robberies and rapes that happened in 2021 as compared to 2020, there was a dramatic increase in the number of gun-related violent crime. Philadelphia reported 2,326 shooting victims in 2021, a 65% increase from 2011.
“So even though violent crime decreased slightly over last year, gun-related crimes skyrocketed,” Martin said.
From a public health standpoint, the report honed in on how Philadelphia was impacted by the pandemic and the opioid epidemic.
As of this month, the city has recorded more than 300,000 COVID-19 cases and upwards of 5,000 deaths from the virus.
As of January 2022, 47% of Philadelphians who were surveyed said they know someone who died of the virus. More than half of Hispanic and Black residents knew someone who died, compared with one-third of non-Hispanic white residents.
The report also addressed how Philadelphia is among the cities hardest hit by the nation’s opioid epidemic. The city recorded 1,214 deaths from drug overdoses in 2020.
“The city has not released its final numbers for unintentional drug overdose deaths in 2021 but they are anticipating 1,250. That is the estimated number of deaths that the city is expecting,” Martin explained. “When you look at our comparison cites we had the second highest per capita overdose death rate in 2020 behind Baltimore — approximately 72 people per 100,000 residents.”
In a 2022 Pew poll, 68% of Hispanic residents, compared to half of Black and white residents, indicated that opioid use is having a negative impact on their neighborhoods.
Ayana Jones is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.
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