Counties are serving on the frontline of the pandemic response with the support of CRF funding in public health, emergency management, social services, and public safety. Due to COVID-19, county services are under critical strain from increased demand. In response, counties have adapted and used Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) dollars to provide life-sustaining support and in innovative ways.
NACo requested that the National Academy of Public Administrators (NAPA) conduct an independent assessment of the CRF and the effectiveness of the federal funding in meeting the needs of the counties and in providing the controls warranted for federal funds. NACo also requested that the study examine innovative strategies undertaken by counties receiving CRF funds to address the pandemic, focusing on initiatives that further social equity.
Through this study, NAPA has identified seven key areas in which policy changes could improve program effectiveness for future programs such as the CRF.
- A better coordinated national response
- Federal departments or agencies responsible for implementing a program such as CRF need legislative funding to stand up a program office with personnel with the skills and expertise needed to design the program, develop effective guidance, and anticipate and respond to questions and issues that will arise, especially during early days.
- Comprehensive guidance for program operations needs to be available when a program is initiated or very soon thereafter
- State and local governments should be allowed to make expenditures with longer-term payoffs, and the funds uses should be flexible
- Program design should allow coverage of operational expenses and revenue replacement, not only coverage of new COVID-related costs
- Future legislation should ensure that the shared services agreements between counties and cities are considered in funding allocations
- Future federal relief legislation should require formal evaluation of program impact during and at the end of the program