The Bottom Line - Fall 2020 - 30

ORA CONTINUED
Drive, and presenting and meeting virtually to
accommodate staff working from home. The
day before we shifted fully to working from
home, we conducted a dry run to ensure that
the administrative team as well as late adopters were up to speed on using Teams to work
from home. We also established protocols for
administrative activities, such as mail pick up
and computer technical support.
For ORA, the biggest challenge was how
to assess the economic fallout under the
lockdown limitations instituted to combat
the spread of COVID-19. Even in the best of
times, tracking the progress of the economy
is a major challenge because official statistics lag the economy by months (e.g., official
GDP for DC for the January - March quarter
were available in July). But, as we were now
required to produce a revenue forecast for
the Mayor's budget at the end of April, it was
imperative that we find some way to gauge
the economic impact of the lockdown on the
DC economy and revenues. Also, we had to
change our forecasting methodologies as
the previous techniques tended to forecast
based on current trends in the economy and
we already knew that the recent past was no
longer a basis for what would come next.

could function reasonably in the current reality. We identified various high-frequency data
sources (i.e., available on a daily or weekly
basis as opposed to the usual monthly statistics). They include smartphone counts in
the District as a measure of commuter and
tourist traffic; Google and Apple mobility data
that tracks the movement of people based on
their smartphones; credit card spending data
that not only track the total value of spending, but also the various categories of spending; and restaurant reservations tracking from
Open Table. The revenue forecasting team
leveraged the experience from the recession
planning exercise to devise plausible scenarios for the DC economy and some ORA staff
became amateur epidemiologists, monitoring
public epidemiology data to determine when
we would "flatten the curve", which was a
crucial threshold for the gradual re-opening
of the DC economy. Despite the high degree
of uncertainty and even as economic events
unfolded quickly, the ORA team worked
together to develop a forecast of the most
likely scenario for the District economy and
revenues. We issued an interim forecast at the
end of March and then an official one at the
end of April for the Mayor's budget. So far, the
revenue forecast for FY 2020 is holding up.

The ORA staff rose to the occasion, casting a wide net for data and methods that

Other challenges emerged as working from home stretched into weeks and

30 | THE BOTTOM LINE



The Bottom Line - Fall 2020

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