FILE – Western Wildfires Tourism

In this Aug. 14, 2018, file photo, a girl works on a drawing next to an unused viewing scope as a smoky haze obscures the Space Needle and downtown Seattle behind.

(The Center Square) – A global pandemic and civil unrest could not stop Seattle from being the nation's fastest-growing big city in 2020. 

According to recent U.S. Census Bureau data, between July 1, 2019 and July 1, 2020, the city added 16,400 more residents. That number brings Washington's number of Seattleites to 769,700 people or a population increase of about 2.2%.

Despite its sharp population increase, Seattle added fewer residents overall than other major American cities. Fort Worth, Texas saw a population surge of 2.1% over the same period, adding 19,229 people. That's ahead of Austin to the south, which saw growth of 1.7% and added 16,721 residents.

San Francisco, Baltimore, San Jose, and New York City led the list of the biggest cities with the sharpest decline in residents between the summers of 2019 and 2020. Each city lost between 1.4% and 1.1% of its total residents. For New York, which lost 1.1% of its population, that meant losing 89,712 people.

Over the past decade, Seattle has grown by 167,895 people between 2010 and 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. Such growth has compounded soaring home prices and rents, pricing out low-income residents and straining housing programs.

Since the onset of the pandemic, COVID-induced shutdowns closed some 27% of Washington businesses, including thousands in Seattle. Buoyed by federal dollars over the past 16 months, the city has set its sights on prioritizing recovery.

On Thursday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Seattle City Council President Lorena González, and City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda announced plans to spend the $128 million.

Of that money, $49 million will be spent on affordable housing, which includes 300 permanent homes and tiny home villages under the so-called "Seattle's Rescue Plan." Another $25 million will be spent on cash assistance and $22 million on nonprofits and community groups.

The budget has become a political tug of war in Seattle City Hall. Calls to replace the police with social workers and community liaisons have reached a fever pitch. The Seattle Police Department has seen multimillion-dollar cuts that make up a fraction of what activists have demanded. Along with infrastructure woes which include neglected bridge repairs, Seattle is likely to be using federal funds extensively in coming years.

Members plan to introduce Seattle's $128 million emergency COVID spending package at the city council's next session during the first week of June.

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.