The coronavirus pandemic and lack of in-person events didn’t stop county officials from meeting virtually to discuss pressing challenges facing county governments at NACo’s first-ever Virtual Federal Policy Summit.
NACo members met Oct. 21 and Oct. 22 to hear from policy experts, NACo leaders, members of Congress, federal agency partners and other thought leaders on a wide range of topics stretching beyond the COVID-19 response.
More than 1,000 participants registered for the two-day summit which included 14 hours of programming with sessions on federalism, intergovernmental partnerships, elections, infrastructure, broadband, health and human services and disaster response, among others.
NACo President and Boone County, Ky. Judge/Executive Gary Moore kicked off the program.
“Our goal is to provide you with the tools to access federal resources designed to help you and achieve your priorities at the local level,” Moore said.
NACo held the summit on the NACo Knowledge Network, a new platform which features virtual content such as town halls, membership calls, webinars and live events. The platform provides a virtual forum to connect county officials. Members can create a profile to use for future virtual events.
Participants tuned into live sessions on the platform’s “main stage” which featured an accompanying attendee chat lounge for members to interact with each other in real time. Attendees also visited NACo’s “backstage” to network with one another, federal policy partners and other thought leaders.
During the summit’s kickoff, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) discussed the importance of local government funding and urged county officials to make their voices heard to their representatives on Capitol Hill.
“We need your advocacy because the local government perspective is sorely lacking in Congress,” he said.
“Everyone knows the critical services your local governments are being required to provide in order to stem the tide of this crisis — going through bankruptcy is not an option, legally or practically, and cutting critical services is also not an option if we can avoid it,” said Connolly, who is a former county supervisor and chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in Virginia.
Participants also heard from NACo CEO/Executive Director Matt Chase on the first day of the summit. Chase shared NACo’s focus on ensuring federal COVID-19 aid provides a fair and simple formula for local response and litigation.
“Counties are on the frontlines protecting our communities and residents from the COVID-19 virus and dealing with the economic fallout with mounting unemployment, business closures, growing mental health and substance abuse issues and challenges with local school openings as well as our local business re-openings,” Chase said.
“We are counties, we are a family,” Moore said. “We’re united in our mission to strengthen America’s counties.”
Look for in-depth coverage of sessions from the Federal Policy Summit in the Nov. 9 issue of County News.