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Survey Shows CARES Act Helped Government With Pandemic Tech

There have been many success stories about government rapidly and effectively responding to the needs of the pandemic with technology. A new survey sheds some light on how the CARES Act helped make that happen.

Amid the many burdens of the pandemic, technology in local government has often been a bright spot: Tech leaders were largely able to set up teleworking capabilities for much of their workforce, move many services online quickly and find creative ways to continue doing work that couldn’t be done online.

It would appear the CARES Act, passed in March, was a big part of the reason why.

A new survey, conducted by Zogby and sponsored by the gov tech company OpenGov, found that the plurality of its local government respondents — 39 percent, specifically — said they had used CARES Act funding to invest in technology “to better serve [their] community or improve staff productivity.”

Another 22 percent said they were considering using the funds for those purposes.

Government Technology has heard anecdotes about rapid technology purchases and implementations at all levels of government in every corner of the U.S. during the pandemic. There have been network upgrades to allow for telework, chatbots to help handle influxes of questions, new systems for managing unemployment insurance claims, digital services for things like permits and licensing, and so on.

The survey was based on responses from 501 elected officials and finance workers in cities, towns, villages, counties and special districts, the majority of which had populations between 10,000 and 100,000.

The findings help explain how local government was able to accomplish the technology work it has during a time when revenues have been declining dramatically. The survey found that about 92 percent of respondents expected to have to make financial adjustments as a result of the pandemic and resultant recession; 18 percent expected “major” adjustments.

On top of CARES Act funding, the survey also found that most local governments have taken cost-cutting measures to deal with the blows coming to their budgets. That includes delaying big capital purchases — a sentiment that has come across from government CIOs describing shifts from long-planned projects to new efforts necessary for the pandemic.

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.