COVID-19 in Pa.: Counties are conducting ‘business as unusual’ | Opinion

(Source: Facebook)

By Lisa Schaefer

Every April, we recognize National County Government Month and the many ways counties impact people every day, often in ways we don’t see or realize.

This year, while unprecedented challenges in governing have changed the operations and measures needed to provide important services, April gives us an opportunity to highlight the county governments that are still here every day on the ground, doing their part to help everyone stay safe and healthy during tremendously difficult times.

For instance, our human services staffs are working to make sure the most vulnerable in our communities continue to receive critical services.

Counties are providing mental health services to support individuals struggling to handle the burdens of these trying times and making sure those in substance abuse treatment can keep making progress. Children and youth caseworkers are employing every tool at their disposal to keep children safe.

Emergency management teams are coordinating all available resources to respond to unprecedented challenges, tracking cases and providing current, accurate and relevant information to residents.

Elections directors continue to manage the compounded challenges of new voting machines, a delayed primary election and even greater numbers of new mail-in ballots to assure a fair, secure and accurate election.

Counties are finding new and innovative ways to hold meetings and conduct business in ways that still keep the public informed about action. They are balancing the need for social distancing with the need for access to the courts and to other records.

They are using virtual methods to continue completing marriage license applications and processing other important documents.

Each of our 67 counties is working with distinct differences in resources but sharing one common goal to protect public health and help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

We are uniquely positioned to provide real support, identify challenges on the ground, pursue solutions and deliver vital services. Now more than ever, our residents are benefitting from the essential functions performed by counties.

Even while everyone remains focused on addressing the pandemic, we here at the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania pause for just a moment to recognize National County Government Month.

It is an opportunity for us to remember that our counties are working for you, your children, your business, your home, your health, your future, at this challenging time and always.

At the same time, we stand together to recognize that there are so many others who also deserve our sincere appreciation – our health care workers, our emergency responders, our grocery store employees, delivery services and so many more.

We know that when we all work together in the best interest of our communities, we can look forward to a brighter tomorrow.

Lisa Schaefer is the executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. She writes from Harrisburg.