In any crisis, the immediate response by government and public safety agencies is to protect their communities. That is just one part of the equation. The steps that municipalities take as they begin recovering from a crisis are just as important, if not more so.
However, in the case of COVID-19, it is not as simple as merely reopening things up to the level they once were.
A survey from the Pew Research Center found that 68 percent of Americans say their greatest concern is that states will lift restrictions stemming from COVID-19 too quickly. In the coming weeks and months, governments must quickly learn how to strike the delicate balance between reopening local economies and services while also listening to the concerns of citizens and keeping them safe.
Municipalities understand that recovery after a crisis is a multi-step process. Not only are they responsible for safely reopening the economy and their communities, but also for jumpstarting their own services and functions that had to be curtailed or shored up due to the crisis. Initiatives that municipalities should consider prioritizing on the road to recovery include:
- Identifying the most important services to bring back first. This can differ for each community and its specific needs. One way to expediate bringing critical services back online more quickly is by discovering new ways to integrate services, enabling municipalities to do more with less. For example, integrating finance and asset management systems can help speed up work orders and fulfill maintenance requests in significantly less time than when the two functions operate in siloes on disparate systems.
- Utilizing data to more efficiently track resources and funding. Historic levels of financial aid are currently coming from multiple sectors, including the federal government, nonprofit organizations and private donations. It’s critical for governments at this time to accurately track the resources their communities are receiving and how they are being used to help citizens and businesses. In this way, governments can more accurately direct critical aid to where it is needed most.
- Prioritizing online services as much as possible, particularly for frequently occurring services such as permitting, renewals and payments. Municipalities that offer online convenience should publicize it to their citizens – Accenture reported that roughly 31 percent of citizens were unaware their government even offered online services. Municipalities that do not have an online platform for citizens to utilize commonly used services should prioritize implementing one, as more and more people are forgoing in-person interactions in favor of online services.
Reopening measures and recovery efforts won’t happen overnight, and it is likely there will be bumps along the way. Local government leaders should work in tandem with business organizations and local health officials as well as citizen groups to arrive at an effective, safe plan for reopening their cities. Developing a plan that is data driven and fact based will serve each city well as they begin the next phase of recovery.