After COVID Losses, Port of San Francisco’s Forbes Hopeful About A Rebound and State Aid

In an interview with AJOT, Elaine Forbes, executive director, Port of San Francisco said the Port could be facing up to an $80 million deficit by the end of 2021. She is hopeful about an economic rebound in 2022 and that $250 million designated by the State of California for ports’ recovery might be partially utilized to reduce Port losses suffered during the pandemic.

Earlier this month, Forbes told the San Francisco Board of Supervisors: “The Port is in a crisis. We have cut our capital budget to below life support. We’ve used our savings and we will be facing layoffs of essential employees without support and tools to right our ship. Our revenues have fallen nearly 50% for a total loss of $60 million and a projected $80 million over the next two years.”

Since then, Forbes said that California Governor Gavin Newsom has decided to allocate $250 million for California ports recovery. The funds come from the $26 billion California received as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.

Forbes noted that the funding for ports must first be approved by the California Legislature and then meet the approval of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). The office will decide on final allocations: “The Port of San Diego is facing similar problems that we are. Other ports may also seek assistance,” she said.

As a result, “we are looking at the end of the year before we can get relief. In the meantime, we might be able to obtain a $20 million loan from the City of San Francisco to tide us over and avoid having to make draconian cuts in staff and Port operations.”

Forbes said that the loss of cruise ship revenue hurt the Port’s revenues during the pandemic. Rent payments have also plummeted from the Port’s tenants. The Port forgave about $14 million in rent for 225 tenants during the ‘shelter in place’ mandates that included restaurants and other businesses shutting down during the COVID crisis. The Port has also deferred collecting tens of millions of dollars in rent from others. Parking revenue has also declined.

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