5 min read

How Local Governments can Respond to Challenges with Digitization

By govpilot
 

The COVID-19 outbreak has had an immense impact on society and the economy. Local governments across the U.S. have been on the front lines of response to the public health and economic crisis. Demand on local governments to provide continued operations and new community services from trash removal to rental assistance, to code enforcement and business loan applications, to the operation of COVID testing sites, is extremely high.

Delivery of these services is made more difficult by shrinking budgets brought on by a sudden, unexpected decrease in economic activity and tax revenue. Despite a $150 billion Federal relief package in the form of the CARES Act, local governments are struggling to push CARES Act money into the hands of those who need it most, according to the Washington Post. According to the article, for many localities, it has been an unprecedented task: quickly distributing millions in relief while trying to curb a rising tide in infections and fill gaping budget holes. Some simply did not have the infrastructure in place to make it happen - and the December 30th deadline to deploy CARES Act funds is rapidly approaching.

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Many local governments across the country however, have responded with new innovative solutions - from transitioning to a remote workforce, to providing small businesses grants to help them survive, to making sidewalk and curbside dining permanent, to investing in digital modernization and constituent services.

In fact, local government leaders of communities of all sizes have long recognized the benefits that digital transformation and e-government services through the implementation of new technologies. Until now, however they lacked the impetus or the funding for such new approaches and government innovation. As the new business administrator of a small city we recently spoke with put it, “I’m 30 years old, and our government is currently using 30 year old software.”

Necessity is the mother of invention, and across the country, local leadership from business administrators, to mayors, city councils, and government employees are looking for new ideas and innovative approaches to lower costs and improve budgets while maintaining public services, and improving transparency, civic engagement, and city services that betters residents' lives during this unprecedented time.

This newfound willingness by local authorities to pursue innovative ideas and innovative processes in real-time as the pandemic unfolds means that county and city administrators are investing resources not just in the in the near-term to stabilize their communities, but are also considering new services, programs, and technologies that will pay dividends for local communities over the long-term.

With CARES Act funds expiring on December 30th and the ongoing need for safe service delivery, local governments and their government officials are prioritizing risk management, citizen engagement, and local needs like rental assistance and small business support.

Increasingly, local governments are looking to improve their capabilities through collaboration with the private sector. According to a Civic Pulse / Power Almanac survey, 61% of top appointed local officials have prioritized new software adoption, and software upgrades in 2021 are top of mind for local officials in law enforcement, citizen communications, Buildings, Public Works, and other critical departments.

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Since the outbreak of COVID-19, several local governments have partnered with GovPilot to implement their digital transformation. The GovPilot team is proud of the success our customers have achieved, and of the services they have been able to continue providing constituents throughout the public health emergency with our cloud-based platform. These are just a few examples of how local governments have utilized GovPilot's 130+ digital modules to unify their departmental data, break down communications silos and provide an efficient, touchless digital experience for all stakeholders including elected officials, employees, and constituents.

Camden County, NJ - In March 2020, the long-time GovPilot customer tapped into our COVID-19 specific products cloud-based receipting and expense tracking module to categorize and record COVID-19 response related expenses across all departments in real-time to present to FEMA for reimbursement. To date, Camden has tracked more than $4.56 million in Coronavirus related expenditures. The county is also utilizing GovPilot's inventory management system to track more than 280 inventory items across the government, ensuring that Camden County remains prepared and responsive to citizens' needs, and accountable to the Federal government.

Jackson, NJ - Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Jackson Township recognized the value of cloud-based government management. Having relied on paper and a server-based system to process and deliver services, and facing the prospect of keeping employees out of their offices during the pandemic, Jackson officials realized that operations and business continuity would be severely impacted without rapid digital transformation. Over the course of six weeks, GovPilot rapidly onboarded thirty critical modules including a public facing GIS map with custom data layers and a digital Report-a-Concern feature, Public Open Records Requests, No-knock Permitting, and Receipting and Expense Tracking which among other things has been utilized by Jackson to track COVID-19 related expenditures for FEMA reimbursement. Implementation of Digitized forms and processes enabled the five-person Clerk’s department to operate remotely while continuing to provide services to residents and have saved the Clerk Department a week’s worth of time every month, to spend on other critical tasks.

Lodi, NJ - The mid-sized town in northern New Jersey transitioned from a paper-based CCO application and inspection system to GovPilot’s cloud-based digital platform in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. For years Lodi relied on an ad-hoc process consisting of paper records and Excel spreadsheets to manually record, track, and report on the city’s CCO applications, inspections, and certifications. With GovPilot, the clerk noted a, “night and day difference”. Lodi has completely eliminated paper from the CCO process, saving more than 60 hours of manual work per month for staff. Inspections are now conducted via GovPilot's GovInspect mobile app on tablet devices on site, in real-time, eliminating paper and travel to and from the office. “GovPilot helped us serve the public during COVID without a glitch. Our residents had no idea that we were working from home", said the Deputy Municipal Registrar.

Manorhaven, NY - The Village of Manorhaven, New York receives more than 700 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests per year. The town's clerk sought to make the paper-based application, processing, and response process much more efficient and worked with GovPilot to digitize their FOIA request, processing, delivery, and filing processes. The digitization of the FOIA process, enabled the village to process requests remotely while the office was closed during COVID, and the staff now received 50% of their FOIA requests digitally, directly through the website.

Trenton, NJ - In April 2020, understanding the dire straights of the small business community, New Jersey's capital city - and GovPilot customer, launched an emergency low-interest business loan program for local small businesses. Utilizing a GovPilot digital form and GIS map that have been made public-facing through its website, the Trenton Business Emergency Loan Program accepted applications for low-interest loans to Trenton businesses - to help them remain in business and protect local jobs. The Loan Fund, provided by the City of Trenton in response to the COVID-19 crisis, was restricted to Trenton businesses within the Urban Enterprise Zone. Businesses outside the Zone are still encouraged to complete an application in the event additional unrestricted funds become available.

“Trenton is not an exception to the economic impacts of our current situation. We are fighting tooth and nail to get cash into the hands of local businesses to help keep them afloat during these difficult times and to keep folks on the payroll who might otherwise lose their jobs,” asserted Mayor Reed Gusciora. “I will not stand by and let generational storefronts close their doors.”

Conclusion:

These are certainly unprecedented times, and local governments are leading the way to the other side of the pandemic with encouraging innovation efforts despite budget shortfalls and difficulty in accessing available funds form the Federal Government. With no guarantee of additional Federal support on the way, the survival of local businesses, and the well-being of people's lives depends on public sector innovation to solve complex problems.

New technologies like GovPilot's cloud-based platform have the capability to deliver significant cost-savings and revenue generation by unifying disparate departmental data on one system, and eliminating time consuming paper processes, even while enabling employees to work remotely. Significant increases in productivity and efficiency were long sought after by local government even before COVID, but now more than ever these governments on the front lines will need to invest innovative new ideas and the implementation of established best practices to survive over the next few months, and thrive beyond the pandemic.

Rapid, effective digital modernization is possible. GovPilot can help. We look forward to speaking soon. 

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Tags: Government Efficiency, Customer Success, Covid-19, Digital Transformation, Blog, CARES Act