Facing unprecedented challenges to citizen service delivery in the months following municipal office closings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, local governments realized that to continue operating, they needed to rapidly migrate many of their manual citizen services and internal processes online
Facing unprecedented challenges to citizen service delivery in the months following municipal office closings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, local governments realized that to continue operating, they needed to rapidly migrate many of their manual citizen services and internal processes online. The availability of The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding provided many municipalities with the financial support needed to invest in new technology from trusted gov tech.
At CivicPlus, we’re proud to have executed the launch of 200 technology solutions specifically needed to help local governments respond to citizens’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic while serving within a remote business model. Such projects include:
With such technology solutions, over 200 local governments are now better equipped to meet citizens’ heightened expectations for digital services and contactless government.
Joining our over 3,500 local governments that rely on a CivicEngage® website as the hub of their citizen engagement strategy, 64 municipalities used CARES Act funds to invest in a modern, easy-to-manage website with integrated citizen communication tools. Such tools include digital newsletters and email notifications, multi-channel alerts, easy-to-update blogs, online payment capabilities, smart search functionality, and facility reservations. The Port of Bellingham, an existing CivicPlus client, leveraged its CivicEngage website’s facility reservation functionality at a critical point in its COVID-19 response strategy.
Bellingham is 31.5 nautical miles from Point Roberts, Washington, a pene-exclave of the United States on the southernmost tip of the Tsawwassen Peninsula, just south of Vancouver. Its residents can reach Bellingham by land by crossing north into Canada through a border checkpoint at the northern end of town, then driving southeast to cross back into the U.S. through another checkpoint. When the U.S. and Canada closed their borders to help mitigate virus spread, Point Roberts’ citizens were left stranded.
With the land border effectively closed, the Port Commission directed staff to set up an emergency ferry service to take residents between Point Roberts and the mainland United States. Port staff began taking reservations by email and phone, tracking reservations using an Excel spreadsheet. Not surprisingly, the demand among citizens who had been cut off from the mainland for months was at first overwhelming, with over 500 citizens requesting ferry reservations in the first week. The high demand created huge logistical challenges for the Port’s administrative team.
“We talked to our client success manager and trainer at CivicPlus to ask if we already had access to a feature that could help with our ferry scheduling,” said Tiffany DeSimone, Port of Bellingham Community Outreach Supervisor. “They recommended the Activities feature, which, it turned out, was exactly what we needed.”
CivicPlus set up the ferry reservation system quickly and trained DeSimone and her staff to begin using the tool right away. Read the full story here.
When COVID-19 forced the closure of public offices, local governments turned to technology to help them continue to meet the legal requirements that surround local and statewide public meeting laws. Such technology tools include live video streaming and recorded video solutions such as CivicPlus Media, which integrates with our CivicClerk® agenda and meeting management solution.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, 38 municipalities have implemented our CivicClerk solution. With CivicClerk and CivicPlus Media, municipalities can continue to hold meetings, make decisions, and maintain a transparent government. Regular meeting operations ensure consistency of citizen service delivery and give citizens peace of mind that critical government functions are operating with transparency, despite office doors remaining closed.
Twenty-three communities have used their CARES Act funds to implement CivicOptimize Productivity, a mobile app, and form development tool that allows for custom configuration of digital workflows and integrations. One such community that used CARES Act funds to purchase Productivity is the City of Manitou Springs, Colorado.
According to Alex Trefry, City of Manitou Springs Public Information and Engagement Officer, when the COVID-19 pandemic originally necessitated the closing of Manitou Springs’ City Hall, he and his fellow leaders knew they needed to quickly adapt many of their citizen service workflows to enable online access to files, forms, and requests.
“While it was necessary to migrate forms online due to COVID-19, we knew that implementing online services would ultimately be easier for both residents and staff, rather than managing paper processes,” said Trefry. “By implementing an online form management solution, my goal was to make it easier for both parties involved and to enhance the typical experience of filling out a form. When I saw the Productivity tool, I knew it would make an impact and help us make forms easily accessible to our community.” Read the full story here.
Fourteen communities have implemented our CivicReady emergency and mass notification software using CARES Act funds. By implementing our CivicReady emergency mass notification software, public safety communicators can reach subscribers with mandates, warnings, and alerts via email, social media, text, and phone messages automatically translated into the citizen’s preferred language.
To enable citizens to submit requests to their leaders and allow administrations to track and respond to requests and inquiries, 33 communities used CARES Act funds to purchase SeeClickFix, our 311 and citizen request management solution. SeeClickFix’s flexible solution allows staff to manage COVID-19 related inquiries safely from anywhere, keeping essential services running with software that captures, tracks, resolves, and measures resident requests even when government offices are closed.
One such community using SeeClickFix to address public works transparency and operations during the COVID-19 pandemic is the City of Burlington, Vermont. During the COVID-19 crisis, the City needed to stay flexible while responding to various new concerns like virus testing and reporting and shifting priorities, all while turning into a remote workforce virtually overnight. The City has relied on SeeClickFix to help manage the influx of inquiries and to redeploy City staff. Read the full story here.
Thirteen municipalities have used their CARES Act funds to purchase CivicRec® to achieve convenient, anytime, anywhere access to facility reservations, class registrations, and event sign-ups. One existing member of our #CPfamily that leveraged CivicRec to adjust to the changing landscape of citizen recreation engagement rapidly is Elgin, Texas.
“The biggest impact of COVID-19 on the citizens of Elgin has been the feeling of a lack of community,” said Elizabeth Marzec Elgin, Texas Parks & Rec Program Manager. “Elgin is small. Our members are used to being around each other in parks, at facilities, in restaurants, and downtown. To no longer be able to connect in a physical way is a struggle and is creating a sense of anxiety for many people. We are using CivicRec to allow citizens to reserve the use of our facilities. The process is simple. They identify what they want to book, they click add to cart, and they click confirm. We have many citizens who are used to walking into our offices to talk to someone to reserve a facility space. This experience is teaching them to use the online tools available from CivicRec, which will help citizens and our staff long-term.”
On December 27, the President signed a law that includes a $900 billion coronavirus response and relief and stimulus for the fiscal year 2021. The bill includes a one-year extension of the deadline for the use of Coronavirus Relief Fund allocations provided through the CARES Act from Dec. 30, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2021.
For local governments that have not yet spent earmarked CARES Act funds, our solution innovators are available for one-on-one consultations to assess your digital transformation needs and put plans in place to build the integrated tools you need to accomplish your contactless government and digital citizen service needs.
About the Author Jonathan Wiersma
As the CivicPlus® Vice President of Marketing, Jonathan focuses on the citizen engagement and marketing communication trends that impact local governments. Jonathan holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration. He has over fifteen years of experience in software research and development, client service, process improvement, product implementations, sales, and marketing.
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