COLUMBUS — In an effort to better understand the changing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing throughout the duration of the State of Ohio’s stay-at-home order, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) recently completed a survey of local governments in Central Ohio.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has added great pressure on local leaders to make serious decisions under tight time constraints and with limited resources,” MORPC Executive Director William Murdock said. “MORPC’s top priority is to be a resource for Central Ohio’s communities and local government leaders as they navigate these new challenges.”
MORPC conducted the online, voluntary survey of its members and other local governments April 2-6, 2020. The local governments responding to the survey included cities, townships, villages and counties of various sizes.
“In a matter of just a few days, we received 74 responses that are helping us to gauge the effects of COVID-19 on these local governments thus far,” MORPC Data & Mapping Director Aaron Schill said. “We plan to repeat the survey on a recurring basis in order to track the changing impacts of COVID-19 over an indefinite period of time.”
Impact on Staffing
Through April 6, only 10 percent of survey respondents had layoffs or furloughs at their organization. However, more than 70 percent are either anticipating layoffs or furloughs, or are unsure about the need for these measures in the future.
Seventy percent of respondents reported that more than half of their employees must work outside of their homes in order to perform their key functions. For essential employees — like safety forces, refuse collection, and maintenance crews — who must continue to work, workplace health and safety is of utmost importance. For nonessential employees, this raises concerns for potential layoffs or furloughs.
Impact on Operations
While physical distancing measures have forced many changes to day-to-day life and how the functions of government are carried out, some consistent changes and concerns rose to the top.
The top three changes implemented by local governments include:
• Closing all facilities to the public, while still allowing some access to some essential staff
• Conducting remote public meetings
• Limiting all transactions (e.g., bill payments, permit/service requests, and filings) restricted to remote options
The top three concerns shared by local government respondents are:
• Staff contracting COVID-19 virus
• Reduction in revenues
• Broader community impacts (e.g., health & safety, social, and economic)
The full survey results can be accessed through the Central Ohio COVID-19 Resource Hub or directly on MORPC’s website at www.morpc.org/covid19-survey.
The United Way of Central Ohio and Human Service Chamber of Franklin County have conducted a similar survey of nonprofits, and One Columbus has conducted a similar survey for private businesses.