CARES Act Fund Use: Notable Successes

December 08, 2020 by Meredith Trimble

CARES Act Fund Use: Notable Successes

As CARES Act funding rolled out, local governments across the country invested in technology that facilitated remote operations and enhanced the efficiency, streamlining, and responsiveness of government services. Two new resources, A Local Government Leaders’ Playbook for the CARES Act and accompanying webinar, include firsthand accounts from dozens of interviews that focused on the scalability of these successful fund uses.

Among the many noted successes, the playbook delves deeper into five standouts, including the three below:

1. Durham, North Carolina

Durham long wanted to remedy the broadband-access gap for lower-income residents and had been developing a way to do so with public and private investments. But when the CARES Act was passed, officials saw an opportunity and put most of their funding into making the broadband project a reality. This summer, Durham broke ground on a 5G internet network for nine public housing properties that will be complete by the end of the year.

This provides a noteworthy example of how governments can use federal money to further policy goals that will have a lasting effect beyond the pandemic. Studies have shown that even in times of traditional instruction, children who don’t have internet access at home tend to underperform on standardized tests. Durham’s ability to quickly move forward on its broadband project will make things easier during virtual school this year, as well as for all residents in the years to come.

2. Elk County, Pennsylvania

Across the country, the pandemic highlighted the importance of having regional relationships and a coordinated response. After all, COVID-19 doesn’t stop at borders. In the northwest corner of Pennsylvania, a group of nine counties serving a population of more than 650,000 leveraged their existing emergency-response partnership to share information in real time and respond more quickly and effectively on the pandemic’s front lines.

Notably, Elk County purchased mobile data terminal software for the multi-county consortium, then used CARES Act dollars to purchase iPads enabled with the corresponding technology for first responders. Instead of having to communicate over the radio, the mobile data terminals automatically and securely dispatch information across the system. “The information we’re getting from that caller is also immediately available to that first responder,” said Mike McAllister, director of emergency services for Elk County. “They have better situational awareness. They’re getting more information than we would have said over the radio, and we don’t have to say it over the radio so any scanner can pick it up.”

3. Long Beach, California

Long Beach used the pandemic context to rethink traditional government roles and services. For example, when the pandemic broke out, some government staff, such as health department personnel, were overwhelmed while others, such as janitors and office support staff, had little to do. Long Beach focused on eliminating silos and deployed staff with the skills to work however and wherever they were needed.

Even though the Park Planning & Partnerships department was temporarily shut down, it was empowered to help the health department stand up COVID-19 testing sites. The work involved procuring test kits and securing laboratory services using CARES dollars. Other parks department staff stepped into new “community ambassador” roles to support the city's COVID response.

These stories and others are explored in more depth in the playbook and webinar, along with scalable solutions – “the plays” – that can be tailored to any jurisdiction navigating CARES Act funds.

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