The 'New Normal': A Survey of Covid's Lasting Effects for Localities

City Hall in San Antonio, TX.

City Hall in San Antonio, TX. istock.com/gregobagel

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

A new survey is asking local government staff and officials how Covid has changed their work—and what might happen next.

Months into the Covid-19 pandemic, local government leaders reported quick pivots to new technologies, including software to streamline public services and remote platforms to allow employees to work from home. Officials said then they expected those changes to be lasting. Were they? Will they be once the pandemic fades?

The “New Normal Survey” will try to find out. The survey, a joint effort between a handful of organizations that work with local governments, is a follow-up to a similar project last summer that queried city and county officials and staff about how the pandemic had changed things—and how they might continue to evolve.

This year’s version, titled “Covid’s Lasting Legacy for Local Government,” aims to discover which of those changes endured—and which were jettisoned or phased out over the course of the pandemic.

“When we launched the first survey, we were only three months into the pandemic. Local government leaders were responding to a rapidly changing environment and were forced to adjust public service delivery practically overnight,” said Ellory Monks, cofounder of the Atlas, an online community designed to help local governments trade information and ideas on successful projects and strategies. The Atlas is owned by Route Fifty's parent company, Government Executive Media Group.

“Now, a year later, this new survey is an incredible opportunity to gain insight into which of those rapid changes may be permanent, and which may be fleeting, directly from local government leaders themselves," Monks added.

The survey, which will be released Wednesday by the Atlas, Engaging Local Government Leaders, CivicPulse, CivicPlus and Route Fifty, invites government workers to share their predictions “about how public services will evolve as a result of Covid-19.” 

Questions are divided into four sections, with an emphasis on priorities (what were the main issues your government was focused on before the pandemic, and what are you focused on now?), impacts from Covid-19 (how did your government spend 2020 relief funding?), adoption of new software and technology, and questions about the future (as vaccine distribution ramps up, what changes do you expect to remain permanent? Are there positives for local governments to take away from the pandemic?).

Completing the survey should take 10 minutes or less, and must be completed by April 7. It will be delivered via email to each organization’s membership list, but anyone who works for a local government is eligible to participate. Results will be released publicly in the beginning of May, with the goal of helping cities and counties expand their understanding of the pandemic’s ongoing effects on operations and innovation.

“Our ‘Next Normal’ survey and report from 2020 provided much-needed insight to local governments about how Covid impacted their operations and staffing,” said Maggie Jones, a member of the ELGL board of directors and the assistant community development director for Tarrant County, Texas.

“The opportunity to revisit those questions and learn more about the long lasting impacts of the pandemic on local government one year later will give us an even richer perspective on what has changed for good, what is still evolving, and what may get back to pre-pandemic normal," Jones added.

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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