COVID-19 Recovery With Battle-Ready Data

August 03, 2020 by Melissa Crowe

COVID-19 Recovery With Battle-Ready Data

ICU beds are freeing up and testing capacity is increasing, but the story of the COVID-19 crisis is far from over. Data-savvy government leaders must prepare now to get their data ready for the long road ahead to recovery.

A recent recovery guide delves into four discrete questions that have dominated conversations among government leaders about their communities’ challenges:

  1. How do we protect public health as we “re-open?"
  2. How do we equitably revive state and local economies?
  3. How do we manage massive revenue and budget shortfalls?
  4. How do we meet rising demands for social services?

These questions focus on two key aspects of recovery: restoring fiscal health and revitalizing their community’s economy. While there are many approaches to launch a long-term recovery strategy, there are three steps every government leader can take to build data into those strategies.

First, assess what data is available.

Financial data is at the core of any recovery effort. The question on everyone’s minds is how sharply revenues will decline, how sustained those declines will be, and how that affects budget deficits.

The basic building blocks of financial health dashboards, for example, should include a granular view of an organization’s payroll and HR data, as well as information about revenue and tax. The idea here is to give yourself the insights you need to navigate the landscape.

For a full list of recommended data for your financial dashboards, click here.

Identify data gaps and find opportunities to address it.

In an interview with The Island Now, Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman said data analysis is vital to any recovery effort.

“We cannot afford to take uninformed guesses or leave things to chance,” he said. “We all need to be equipped with the best data and trends that we can analyze so that the county can fulfill its obligations, protect its workforce, and deliver essential services to all residents in this time of great need.”

Government leaders are swimming in data, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t gaps. For example, city and county government leaders can combine administrative data to provide a better picture of fiscal and economic recovery. That act of collaboration closes some gaps. Third-party data, on the other hand, can help close more.

Tax revenue, for example, can lag other economic indicators by months. Unemployment claims and business license data create a similar challenge. For example, part-time workers may see their hours cut, but there’s no corresponding signal to those in charge of recovery.

Third-party data from sources such as Homebase or Womply can shed light on important indicators that would otherwise be missed, and provides compelling opportunities to tap into recovery insights.

Partner with others in the ecosystem.

Recovery will require time, understanding, and, perhaps most importantly, collaboration.

Elected officials and data leaders don’t have the luxury of limitless time. They must partner with nonprofits, startups, the tech industry, and other government leaders to demonstrate value and tactical wins on their immediate challenges. For example, sharing data about pharmacies with personal protective equipment or helping stores maintain quantities and crowds are needed services and initiatives government leaders can fund, incubate, and scale.

In Buffalo, New York, Kirk McLean, director of open data and chief of staff to the city’s CIO, published a variety of information to the open data portal in the early stages of the pandemic, including:

  • Pertinent health and mental health information
  • Support for older residents
  • Assistance for small businesses and people looking for work
  • Information on homeless shelters
  • Free meals for Buffalo residents
  • Relevant data and statistics
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Virtual cultural and child-friendly activities
  • An in-memoriam tribute to the local lives lost in the pandemic

The urgency of the pandemic is bringing government and non-government stakeholders together, which broadens the collective skill base and can spur much-needed innovation. The three steps laid out here may seem simple, but are among the first steps government leaders can take to build swift and targeted recoveries.

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