Three of our County clients joined us for a webinar to share their best practices and experience throughout the Covid Crisis. Our speakers included Scott Hartman - Deputy County Administrator at McHenry County, IL; Alicia Schueller - Assistant to the County Administrator at McHenry County, IL; Mali Dyck - Assistant CEO at Nevada County, CA; and Al Vanderberg - County Administrator at Ottawa County, MI.

Key Takeaways:

McHenry County, IL

  • Focus on the local angle - Information changes hour to hour, and most information came from the CDC and the IDPH. The information is changing so quickly, so the focus needs to be on what residents need to know now while highlighting data that is relevant locally.
  • Forming a Joint Information Centre (JIC) - using a multi-agency approach to the messaging allowed the county to ensure that residents are getting consistent information from all sources, despite the fact that this is a “crisis without benchmarks or playbooks” (as opposed to a tornado).
  • Following the message - The message changed from a public health concern - i.e. data about maintaining public health - to highlighting the tools the County has to support other needs, such as mental health, employment, and business support. Using Zencity’s dashboard allowed the county to identify when they needed to pivot to address a different trend.

Nevada County, CA

  • Being creative with Census outreach - The original plan was doing kiosk and pop up events to meet people in person. Now with that option unavailable The county is: Working with community partner organizations that provide social services (e.g. food banks) or family resource centers to reach out to the community. Mailing postcards to every household and p.o. box. Reaching out through social media but also other channels - radio, local newspaper, banners in the community and phone banking.
  • Supporting local business - Like many counties the local economy is taking a hard hit with Covid-19. In order to make sure they can reopen as soon as possible the county is providing guidance on best practices to local businesses: Zoom calls with business owners to talk about how to get loans, and what workforce support is available. Set up the ‘Nevada County Relief Fund’ to support those who did not qualify for state funds - the community matches 2$ on each county dollar. Created the ‘Reopening Advisory Committee’ that is collecting and disseminating best practices on reopening, including template plans and training for working under social distancing measures. Zencity allowed the County to analyze resident opinion on various reopening issues, such as masks and whether they want to make it a requirement.

Ottawa County, MI

  • Discovering the benefits of working remotely - The County transitioned 45% of employees to work from home and discovered several benefits: Some of these positions will be able to keep working remotely at least partly in the future - Those that deal with records processing, or taking online reservations - anything that they do not need to meet people. Participation in training programs increased - The County added 9 new training programs and already has close to 2000 courses taken by employees.
  • The importance of a collaborative relationship - The County cultivated a collaborative relationship with local authorities over the past decade and a half. This has proved crucial for successful cooperation throughout the crisis when organizations have to work together.
  • Keeping a close eye on citizen feedback - The County started citizen surveys 17 years ago every odd year - Zencity allows them to “have a survey 24/7” and hear what the residents think right now and not have to wait till next year.
  • Why openness to innovation helps in a crisis - being open to innovation has helped them face the crisis just by teaching people that you use different thought processes for different situations.

Q&A Issues

  • Supporting Vulnerable Communities (homeless and elderly) - McHenry County used available grant dollars to put their homeless in a hotel to avoid them getting sick. Nevada County has been sending out its homeless outreach and medical engagement team to visit the homeless camps (including a nurse). That allowed them to treat anyone in need.
  • Planning a Revenue Forecast - Ottawa County is looking at different scenarios and trying to put numbers to the different scenarios and prepare for each of them.
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