COVID-19 GIVES RISE TO CHALLENGES FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS April 2, 2020

Maria Tamblyn and Katrina Washington

Mother and daughter sit together one playing with toys and one working on a laptop


"The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 requires agencies to incorporate telework into plans for continuous operation. Although it was written and implemented for federal agencies, the same principles apply to governments at the local level."
Maria Tamblyn
Maria Tamblyn

These are troubling times, to be certain – None more so than for the health care providers caring for COVID-19 patients and their families. Suppliers are under pressures to produce and deliver, teachers are engaging their students from a distance, and individuals are suddenly being plunged into a chasm of how to provide for and protect their loved ones as jobs are lost and the economy faulters. Time spent in relative isolation encourages reflection of many things postponed or ignored, while priorities are examined and shuffled.

Among the many organizations being acutely impacted are local governments, their employees, and the families of those employees. The ability of local governments to support communities and provide services is central to the purpose of cities and counties. It is generally established that local governments have two primary functions: the first being an administrative one of facilitation, for their citizenry and community, in obtaining supplies and services; the second is to represent and engage citizenry in identifying needs and determining how to best meet those needs, including the elections of those who best represent the citizens in accessing and engaging those things deemed to be priorities or essentials.

Katrina Washington
Katrina Washington

These are defining times for leadership, elected and appointed officials, as well as for governmental employees. During the last few weeks counties and municipalities have been forced, of necessity, to re-examine and determine those priorities as concerns related to the COVID-19 have emerged and intensified.

While the most recent primary focus has been on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and on the Coronavirus Federal Stimulus Package, a lesser-known act is surely one of importance during emergencies and pandemics such as this. The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 requires agencies to incorporate telework into plans for continuous operation. Although it was written and implemented for federal agencies, the same principles apply to governments at the local level. This piece of legislation will be of particular interest to guide local governments in enhancing their readiness and will provide a foundation to be proactive and prepared for future crises.

Among those operational topics, paraphrased to speak to Alabama’s local governments, is the necessity to have:

  • A written definition of “telework”
  • Incorporation of “continuity of operations” into plans, responsibilities, and procedures
  • Establishment and maintenance of a local government telework website, capacities, and support, as employees maintain services and resources from remote locations
  • A designation of a “telework managing officer”
  • Cooperation with human resources/personnel to collect information and data, and manage such things as leave, pay, and benefits
  • Collaboration and consultation with other organizations for guidance and support
  • Plans for retention of workforce, and for return-to-work, as appropriate, and, importantly,
  • Support for employees to maintain an appropriate “work-life balance”.

Reference:
https://www.telework.gov/guidance-legislation/telework-legislation/telework-enhancement-act/


The HR Consulting division of the Government & Economic Development Institute (GEDI) at Auburn University invites you to participate in future topics and discussions by submitting comments, questions, and issues that your local government would like to have addressed, to mariatamblyn@auburn.edu.


ABOUT GEDI: As a part of University Outreach, the Government and Economic Development Institute's mission is promoting effective government policy and management, civic engagement, economic prosperity, and improved quality of life for the State of Alabama and its communities.

Maria Tamblyn serves as manager of GEDI’s HR Consulting division. She can be reached at (334) 844-4899 or mariatamblyn@auburn.edu.

Katrina Washington is a Human Resources Consultant with Auburn University’s Government and Economic Development Institute. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Adult Education at Auburn University. She can be reached at (334) 844-4735 or ktw0019@auburn.edu.

Last Updated: April 3, 2020