Writer: Roger Nielsen
Georgia’s state and local leaders can access accurate, current data to learn how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the economics of their communities through GeorgiaDATA.org, a resource designed by UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Such data is vital to communities' ability to plan and budget in the midst of the pandemic.
The interactive visualization tool allows elected officials, department heads and government staff to easily find relevant data, including sales tax and initial unemployment claims, see how their community’s leading indicators are trending over time and learn whether the same changes are occurring nearby, regionally or statewide, said David Tanner, Vinson Institute associate director, who spearheaded recent GeorgiaDATA upgrades.
“You can see how local data is changing over time with the tool,” Tanner said. “You can see how the data is trending compared to last year, or compared to nearby counties, regions or the state as a whole.”
The institute originally created GeorgiaDATA.org to enhance access to county-level data printed every year in the Georgia County Guide. Users can drill down by topic, visualize the data using maps and on-screen tools, make meaningful comparisons. Data from the Georgia County Guide data can also be downloaded as Excel files. The Vinson Institute regularly updates the website with information drawn from official weekly and monthly sales tax and unemployment claims reports so that officials have the most current knowledge to make accurate decisions about their community’s future.
Leaders in Putnam County used sales-tax distribution reports from the COVID-19 Economic Data pages to establish a spending plan for completing this fiscal year and to develop a budget for their next fiscal year starting in October, said Paul Van Haute, Putnam County manager.
“GeorgiaDATA helps me analyze my county data compared to my neighbors and compared to similar jurisdictions around the state,” Van Haute said. “This is stuff I can share with the Putnam County commissioners and they can use, too.’’
Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales learned more about GeorgiaDATA.org during the institute’s webinar series, “Navigating Fiscal Crisis.” GeorgiaDATA is a tool more elected and appointed officials should be using, she said.
“You can get all the information you could possibly need to make good decisions. In these uncharted waters, this data becomes very critical,” Ordiales said.
The webinar on GeorgiaDATA.org was recorded and slides as well as video can be found on the institute’s COVID-19 Resources website.