July 29, 2020

COVID-19 Recovery Plans for Kentucky Cities: Immediate Needs

This is part one of a three-part series which also includes "What's Next?" and "Making it Easy for Businesses to Thrive in Your City." 

More than 100 days into the coronavirus pandemic, there is no doubt cities will be dealing with its aftereffects for many years to come. Most Kentucky cities continued operations during the early stages of the crisis, doing what cities do best – taking care of their citizens.

As restrictions lifted, city councils and commissions are now meeting regularly adjusting to social distancing recommendations. Countywide emergency services may still be meeting, but likely are reduced to a weekly check-in or monthly update. Police, fire, EMS, public works and utilities, the professional services citizens have come to expect, are functioning as before.

As elected leaders and city staffers take a collective breath, there is no time to waste in preparing for what is yet to come. City leaders now must turn their attention toward community development to prepare for what’s next.

To consider a “quick fix” or “back to normal” approach, would be a mistake. Unlike previous health scares like H1N1 and financial setbacks such as the 2007 – 2009 Great Recession, this cut is much deeper. The economy was already showing signs of slowing when the pandemic brought it to an unprecedented stop.

We’ve already seen the economic blow dealt to small businesses, transportation, the hospitality industry, and the arts. And, let’s not overlook the impact on the medical resources that may be within your community. Cities now must evaluate the impact this pandemic is having on the local workforce, businesses, resources and facilities, and plan accordingly.

We recommend the city organize a work group to focus on the economy just as you originally gathered emergency service professionals when the pandemic first hit. Reach out to manufacturing, industrial, technology, business leaders, research institutes, nonprofits, and other economic development experts to identify critical workforce issues, supply chain disruptions, infrastructure concerns and capital needs. Having this information will enable you to work on connecting local needs to available resources.

Develop an immediate cluster assessment plan for each industry (tourism, manufacturing, small businesses/retail). Identify what will work best for each cluster. Create support programs or initiatives for each cluster as they will differ – one size does not fit all. Identify a point of contact for each cluster and encourage frequent communication. Work with financial and other professionals to help identify ways in which the government and private sector may partner to provide solutions. Identify individuals or organizations within your community who will partner with local government in seeking funding as it becomes available. As the federal government and other funding sources turn their dollars toward support, cities must be prepared to apply. Evaluate and address city revenues – bottom line, when businesses are up and running, city revenues increase.

While this work is underway, remain connected with local health professionals and educators. These anchor industries are overwhelmed right now but are also vulnerable to layoffs and furloughs. Ask them to work with you to review, evaluate, develop and/or coordinate plans on how best to assist with the current health crisis. Work together to limit layoffs or further unemployment.  

Parts two and three of this series are coming soon.