Writer: Roger Nielsen
Recognizing how the COVID-19 pandemic could erode local government finances, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government immediately began sharing technical expertise to provide effective assistance.
Within days of the coronavirus lockdown, Institute faculty began planning free webinars to give Georgia’s state and local leaders accurate, current data about how the pandemic is affecting their communities and to help them make long-term recovery plans.
Nearly 2,000 government leaders registered for the Institute’s Navigating Fiscal Crisis webinar series, which debuted in May. The Institute recorded all five webinars for those who couldn’t attend and made the presentations and related informational graphics available online at https://t.uga.edu/5Xy.
The webinars also include downloadable worksheets to help local officials assess the pandemic’s economic impact in their community and tools that make it easier to recalibrate budgets and manage fluctuating cash flow. The tools are available at https://t.uga.edu/60I.
Offered with support from AT&T, the Navigating Fiscal Crisis series aligns with the Institute’s mission to help governments better serve their constituents through training, applied research, technical assistance and technology solutions, according to Institute of Government Director Laura Meadows.
“We knew that cities and counties across the state — both in urban and rural areas — would struggle with this unprecedented impact on their communities,” Meadows said. “We also knew that our faculty experts could help them address their immediate financial challenges and use models to prepare for future years of economic recovery and success.”
In addition to helpful information and useful tools, the webinars include a guide to GeorgiaDATA.org, a resource the Institute provides for governments and the public. The Institute developed a visualization tool for GeorgiaDATA that allows community leaders to easily find economic and workforce data to inform their response to the COVID-19 downturn, see how their community’s leading indicators are trending over time and learn whether the same changes are occurring nearby, regionally or statewide.
Elected officials and government administrators say they immediately began using the information and tools the Institute shared. Putnam County Manager Paul Van Haute and Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales honed their budgets with knowledge they gained from the webinars.
“The delivery of the webinars was flawless and the information was great,” Ordiales said. “It was good to be able to see the trend and where it’s going. And the data there is spot on.”