Making ARPA Work for You: Funding to Increase Resident Engagement
With the creation of The American Rescue Plan (ARPA), the federal government has created the funding channels that allow organizations at a variety of levels to put their recovery plans into action.
The last year saw a pandemic that altered every aspect of daily life. Despite the hardships and restrictions that touched every aspect of regular routines, ingenuity rose to the challenge to make sure that life could continue even as everything paused to deal with public health issues. As the country moves closer to recovery, governments have the opportunity to evolve those ingenious solutions into permanent processes that will help return their communities and residents to a position that is stronger than before.
Providing $1.9 trillion in emergency relief funding to business owners, governments, and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government is looking to ARPA to both help offset the lost tax revenue from one year of the pandemic as well as fund their communities’ economic recovery moving forward.
For many organizations, temporary fixes allowed civic engagement to continue, and even grow, during a time when restrictions on face-to-face interaction made that impossible. With the impact of ARPA funding, organizations can shape those temporary fixes into permanent solutions that leverage the technology their customers have come to rely on and the convenience they have come to expect.
ARPA Provides Funding to Make Virtual Meetings Permanent
Digital government was already evolving prior to 2020. But when the pandemic crisis kicked digital solutions into overdrive in all areas, governments quickly looked for interactive solutions to maintain connection with their residents, despite office closures and remote access.
Forced to re-think everyday operations in order to keep residents and employees safe and informed, virtual meetings were an efficient and quick solution to providing residents with the transparency and access to governmental meetings that had previously been available only through in-person attendance.
Some governments took advantage of publicly available services such as Zoom and YouTube to provide video-driven connections to their audiences in a virtual environment. These solutions kept in-person interaction to a minimum, while providing a basic level of interaction and engagement surrounding public meetings.
Others turned to solutions such as Granicus’ govMeetings, which helped drive a more thorough digital environment not only into the sharing of meeting presentations, but provided benefits for staff. Modernizing the public meeting experience, collaborating remotely on materials, and collecting public feedback from any location were just a few of the ways that staff were able to leverage digital services during the pandemic. By providing a more organized approach to public meetings, governments were able to increase civic engagement due to easier access to related information, including videos searchable by topic.
Why Temporary Solutions Won’t Work Going Forward
The technological tools that helped people adjust to online grocery shopping and food delivery have led to a change in behavior that is likely to remain long after the pandemic. In the same way, organizations must prepare to support moving public meetings to virtual settings as a more permanent offering as residents have come to appreciate and expect the convenience of engaging with meetings on their terms and through their choice of device. Making this change helps organizations continue adhering to Sunshine Law requirements, while supporting resilient operations that will be able to continue unencumbered by any future public health emergencies.
While technologies such as Zoom and YouTube provided band-aid approaches to meeting governmental needs during the crisis, dedicated solutions such as govMeetings provide the evolution to a permanent digital tool that establishes a “digital government” philosophy.
This change impacts resident experiences by:
- Allowing live streaming of public meetings
- Giving participants the ability to join from remote locations
- Collecting public feedback digitally before and during meetings
- Collaborating on meeting materials from any work location
- Keeping the community engaged and actively informed of public initiatives and decisions
While temporary solutions provide remote access, a permanent solution, such as govMeetings goes further to provide supplemental staff supports and, perhaps more importantly, increased security. By introducing a dedicated tool, organizations using govMeetings change the process of meeting preparation.
Workflow automation creates efficiencies such as:
- Reduced phone inquiries
- Facilitated remote work and offsite access
- Digital distribution of meeting materials and information to community members, elected officials, the press, and stakeholders
Government organizations that used govMeetings’ Send Agenda feature to distribute digital public meeting materials have experienced as much as a 500% increase in community subscriptions and a 250% increase in engagement with meeting updates and information, demonstrating the power of digital communications to increase community awareness during a crisis. And, thanks to the digitization of previously manual paper-based processes, Granicus govMeetings customers have achieved savings of more than $120,000 annually.
A permanent engagement solution such as govMeetings also provides a more secure experience for both residents and organization members. Robust, hardened datacenters that adhere to NIST standards and SOC1 and SOC2 (SSAE 16) requirements strengthen the security and availability of organizational data and provide a safe space similar to in-person environments.
Improved Access for All Residents through ARPA Funds
The digital transition forced by the pandemic created many lessons about the evolution of government services. A major lesson that governments will be wise to heed as the post-pandemic process continues is that increasing access points for their residents increases the likelihood of engagement.
Remote access to public meetings gives communities timely online access from any device at any time without the need for face-to-face contact. The types of public content that allow them to stay informed include:
- Meeting calendars
- Live and archived meeting video
- Meeting materials, meeting actions and historical records (such as motions and votes)
- Meeting minutes and updates or alerts
As a result of the easy access to this kind of material, representation and access to the public conversation can also expand. No longer do residents only have the opportunity to be heard in public meetings at a specific time and at a specific place. They can engage with their government more directly.
Tools like govMeetings are optimized for inclusivity and ADA accessibility that ensures meeting information, communications, and participation is available to all community members, especially as meetings continue to be conducted remotely.
A Tool for Transition and the Future
The continuity of our government operations remains critical, despite employees working remotely, restrictions on in-person meeting attendance, and limited access to government facilities. As a result, the Granicus govMeetings solution will create resilience within daily operations and allow governments to adapt to new COVID-19 challenges. Thanks to funding from the American Rescue Plan, governments have the means to drive a digital change that will impact their communities for the better.
Granicus is proud to partner with the Grants Office, the nation’s leading provider in grants intelligence. Through this partnership, for those who want to move forward with requesting funds for technology projects, we offer complimentary sessions with Grants Office experts to help shape your project ideas, sessions like today, and FAQs on how to navigate getting this funding within your own community or state.