COVID-19 brought unprecedented operational challenges for governments. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress in March, set aside substantial funds to support the COVID-19 response efforts of state and county governments of certain-sized jurisdictions. Local governments can apply through their county or state.
Many governments are already tapping into CARES funds, not only to comply with public health measures, but to:
- Enable remote work.
- Keep government operations running.
- Enhance community engagement.
The important throughline in these successful outcomes is the technology that enables them. According to the Treasury Department, technology that improves remote-working capabilities for government employees is eligible for CARES Act funding. So, too, is technology that supports social distancing, such as solutions that provide COVID-19 updates, allows remote bill-paying or facilitates remote meetings.
The public sector is adapting to the current crisis and preparing for future challenges by pivoting to social distancing and remote work. Employees’ ability to work remotely is at the heart of local governments’ response to COVID-19. These governments have transformed familiar in-person workflows to new digital solutions such as employee self-service, virtual timesheets and digital content management, each of which supports pandemic guidelines.
Continuity of Operations
Despite social distancing protocols, governments have continued to function by using technology solutions that bypass the need for in-person meetings and paper-based workflows. These solutions support remote meeting management and transparency, online permitting and licensing, and vendor self-service as well as electronic citations, online dispute resolution and virtual courts.
In addition, as COVID-19 turns budgets upside down, financial software and data analytics that provide real-time, actionable insight support better decisions and smarter resource allocation. These measures decrease personal interactions and allow governments to perform core operations even while offices are closed.
Technology that helps community members engage with government remotely allows residents to access vital services without the need for in-person interaction. Examples include incident-reporting software for non-emergency inquiries, citizen open data and self-service portals, and notification software that provides essential information via multiple channels.
Agencies that use cloud-based technology solutions have had an easier time enabling remote work and scaling up to meet evolving public engagement needs. Cloud-based solutions have inherent scalability and take the pressure off IT departments to manage servers. The cloud also makes it easier to connect securely with remote workers. The ability to deploy software remotely has helped governments quickly implement self-service portals, remote payroll changes, mobile apps and new financial reporting, among other solutions.
The strength of governments and the key to their successful continuity of operations is an integrated software ecosystem that enables remote workflows and connectivity for decision-makers, employees and the public. Using available funding to attend to urgent and widely acknowledged needs can improve agency stability during the short-term crisis, while also supporting future success.
Meredith Trimble is a former municipal official and Town Council Acting Chair, who focused on strategic planning, annual budgeting and bonded infrastructure projects. Her government experience also includes posts in both federal and state-level executive branch agencies: Associate Editor of the U.S. Federal Election Commission’s FEC Record; and Director of Education for the Connecticut Office of State Ethics. In her current role as a Senior Content Specialist with Tyler Technologies, Inc., she writes content to help empower those who serve the public. Her current focus is to help facilitate data-enabled organizations as well as to create connections between governments and those they serve.