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Resident feedback guides Bloomington to address COVID-19 budget impacts, saving $390,000

Bloomington, MN, USA
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POLCO
Contact Partner

Goverment Champion

Outreach and Engagement

Cost

Initial:
8.3 Thousand USD

Project Status

In Progress/Under Construction since 2020

Keywords

recovery
COVID19
resident engagement
crisis communications

Challenges Addressed

Citizen Engagement
Transparency
Civic Technology
Fiscal Uncertainty
Process Improvement

Motivation

Resilient city

Funding / Financing

General Fund/Existing Public Funds
Federal grants

Project Type

Technology

At a Glance

Bloomington leaders want to protect residents from the spread of COVID-19, while also helping the economy. And, with limited ability to engage in person, it is both a struggle and necessity to connect with residents. Bloomington’s leaders are utilizing a civic engagement platform to navigate the COVID-19 response.

Problem Addressed

Bloomington must work to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 community-wide. These impacts include protecting residents from the spread of the virus, economic shortfalls related to closures and shutdowns, and difficulties in reaching residents both for feedback and for distributing important information.

Bloomington, Minnesota used/is using the civic engagement platform Polco to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

To reach residents online, Bloomington turned to the civic engagement platform Polco.

"We selected the Polco platform because of its ability to provide quick snapshots of how constituents we're faring and gather feedback on budget and service issues," said Diann Kirby, Bloomington's Community Services Director.

Polco’s suite of survey and civic engagement tools deliver insights local governments can rely on. As part of the subscription, Polco provides scientific surveys and can verify that respondents live in the community. Polco also provides real-time results displayed as helpful dashboard reports.

“The ability to select surveys off the shelf was particularly useful in our case, as was the verification of residents against voter registration files for demographic data. The product was very user-friendly, providing us with the ability to upload questions and set up polls in a matter of minutes," Kirby said.

ADDRESSING RESIDENTS’ COVID-19 CONCERNS

Throughout the pandemic, the City has gathered feedback to learn more about how residents are faring. This feedback guides Bloomington’s COVID-19 response.

In April, residents reported that the City website is the second most popular resource for information about COVID-19. Community members seek timely, factual information, especially related to the number of COVID-19 cases locally. So the City improved its website and added a dashboard.

In June, residents reported that they do not feel safe in public around others not wearing masks. In response, the mayor issued a proclamation requiring face coverings inside all City buildings.The City Council planned to follow up to consider an ordinance requiring face masks inside all of the City's indoor spaces. They were ahead of the game. Shortly after this consideration and before the Council’s public hearing, Minnesota's government implemented a statewide face mask mandate inside all indoor spaces.

GUIDING ECONOMIC RESPONSE

COVID-19 impacts have resulted in a budget shortfall of up to $17 million in 2020. Bloomington has used Polco to partner with residents to decide how to address this shortfall.

To reach more residents, Bloomington leaders promoted a budgeting poll through the City’s social media, email, and website. Residents who do not have internet access could call Parks and Recreation. City leaders included a Frequently Asked Questions page with the poll. Over 3,000 residents responded.

After reviewing resident feedback, the City Council elected to close a community center through the end of the year. This saved the City an estimated $390,000.

"The use of the Polco citizen engagement platform has helped the City of Bloomington to increase engagement, improve transparency and inform decision-making on issues that matter to the city’s residents," said Kirby. "It is helping the City to stay abreast of public opinion and key trends, especially at a time when in-person engagement is significantly constricted due to a public health crisis."

Outcomes

  1. Resident Safety: In response to feedback, the mayor issued a proclamation to require face coverings inside all City buildings.
  2. Communication to Residents: Results from the Polco polls prompted Bloomington to improve its website and add a COVID-19 dashboard.
  3. Economic Response: Based on input, the City Council elected to close a community center through the end of the year. This saved an estimated $390,000, addressing the budget shortfall.
  4. Increased Online Engagement: One poll received more than 3,000 responses. Participation with social media/email has also increased, a byproduct of promoting polls through these channels.

Something Unique

Bloomington’s Performance subscription to Polco includes The National Community Survey (The NCS™), the gold standard in community assessments. The NCS is eligible for CARES Act funding in many states. Subscriptions to Polco that include online surveys start at $119 per year. The Performance subscription is $8300.

Who Should Consider?

Local government communicators, organizations, leaders, and decision-makers.

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