How Local Governments Can Engage Residents in a Successful COVID-19 Recovery At No Added Cost

Local governments can unlock CARES Act Funding to engage residents in an effective COVID-19 recovery.

From impacts to residents, to shuttering local businesses and drying up sales tax revenues, local governments have experienced profound impacts as COVID-19 continues to cause upheaval nationwide.

Local government leaders like you now face the challenge of planning for an eventual recovery. A major component of guiding your community forward is ensuring that residents’ needs, preferences, and priorities are considered. But how do governments effectively listen to their residents? 

Polco Sr. Vice President of Innovation Michelle Kobayashi and Director of Sales Lisa Dowling help local governments across the nation maximize community engagement for effective strategic planning. They say survey data can guide leaders to make effective, evidence-based decisions. And, local governments can access those surveys without added financial burden since they may be eligible for CARES Act Funding.


Survey Research Informing COVID-19 Recovery

A major component of recovery from COVID-19 is ensuring that the needs of residents and other key stakeholders in the community are being considered. 

The best way to capture those needs is through resident-informed data collected by surveys. This data can inform tough decisions in the coming months, help communities to understand local impacts, and provide residents a safe and effective way to engage.

Polco’s research arm, National Research Center, offers a suite of statistically-sampled, benchmarking surveys.

The surveys include The National Community Survey (The NCS), The National Business Survey (The NBS), The Community Assessment Survey for Older Adults (CASOA), The National Employee Survey (The NES), and The National Police Services Survey (NPSS).

These surveys have been designed to get critical feedback from residents, businesses, employees, and older adults in the community. 

Recently, COVID-19 questions were added to these surveys to help with recovery from the pandemic.


The National Community Survey

The National Community Survey (The NCS) is the gold standard of community surveys. Hundreds of communities over the past 20 years have taken The NCS. 

The NCS provides an accurate assessment of quality of life, overall livability, and resident satisfaction. Results from the survey can be used for strategic planning, budgeting, policy-making, performance measurement, and program evaluation. 

Many local governments take The NCS over multiple years. They can use these trendlines to guide in strategic planning, budgeting, or resource allocation.

Because the survey has both general livability and specific COVID-19 questions, communities can use The NCS in both general planning and specific COVID-19 recovery.


The National Business Survey

Another CARES survey, The National Business Survey (The NBS), gathers the perspectives of the business community. More and more, local governments are turning to The NBS since they are struggling with how to help their business community during the pandemic.

The NBS covers a wide range of topics from what local governments can do for the business community to workforce needs and supports. COVID-19 specific questions have been added to The NBS, which include how COVID-19 affects business sales, revenue, and workforce. 


Leveraging CARES Act Funds for These Surveys

Because these surveys help inform the recovery process, the suite of surveys offered are eligible expenditures for federal CARES Act funds. 

There are time limitations to be able to use CARES Act funding for the surveys. Please act now. 


The Best of Both Worlds: Polco Platform and the CARES Act Surveys

The Polco engagement platform can be used alongside any of the CARES-eligible benchmark surveys, giving you the best of both worlds. 

Polco’s live civic engagement platform provides immediate feedback to governments, which is essential in a continuously-shifting environment. Then the CARES surveys provide statistically significant benchmarked data you can trust. The surveys are completed through the Polco platform. 

Using the data from the surveys, you can use Polco to post follow up questions, polls, or microsurveys to dive deeper into certain areas. 

Polco breaks down results into user-friendly data visualizations and can sort by demographics, geographic areas, or more.

For more information about how to unlock CARES Act Funding to engage residents in COVID-19 recovery, contact Director of Sales Lisa Dowling at

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