Local officials would like to provide expanded broadband access to 77,000 households in Linden, Franklinton, Northland and other targeted neighborhoods throughout Greater Columbus at a cost to residents of $15 or less per month.
They’re eyeing the establishment of short-term certificate, credentialing and other programs that could help open doors for teens and out-of-work residents seeking lucrative careers.
Or how about bonus payments for residents who go to work at licensed child-care centers, and incentives for centers and home-based childcare providers that open shop or expand?
Those are just some of recommendations in a final report issued Wednesday as part of a yearlong effort of the Recovery and Resiliency Advisory Committee, a collaborative initiative of Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, the Columbus City Council, the Franklin County board of commissioners and others.
“We’ve all been meeting for many, many months now to figure out what does life look like, post-pandemic,” Franklin County Commissioner John O’Grady told The Dispatch. “There’s been a lot of people at the table having many, many months of conversations. … We’ve had the entire community involved in these conversations. We’re going to have the entire community involved in the recovery, as well.”
O'Grady added: "You don’t come back from what we’ve been dealing with over the last two years — it’s unprecedented — without having everybody at the table. It just doesn’t happen.”
Economic inequities a focus of panel's work
Begun in October 2020, the goal of the 39-member panel was to plan for Greater Columbus’ recovery after the coronavirus pandemic ends and to ensure that recovery is enjoyed by all residents.
“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and further widened our community’s existing underlying inequities,” Ginther said in a released statement. “No single entity can address all the challenges we face, but this committee has developed a framework for continued community collaboration and investment that will improve quality of life, particularly among our most vulnerable residents.”
The committee, which included input from nonprofit groups and private businesses in addition to public agencies, offered 37 recommendations, covering everything from housing and child care to work force development and broadband access.
“The pandemic laid bare many of our community’s needs, and these recommendations are meant to be a strategic framework to address certain systems, services and programs that need attention and investment now for an equitable recovery,” Christie Angel, president and CEO of YWCA Columbus, who chaired the committee, said in a released statement.
“This is an opportunity to join together to create a better future for the residents and businesses of Columbus and Franklin County," Angel said.
For example, the report recommends the addition of 12,000 new housing units in Columbus, plus 3,000 single-family and 9,000 multi-family homes in Greater Columbus annually over the next eight years.
To accomplish that, the report urges a better alignment of Columbus city departments, a streamlined approval process for new developments and a new “adaptive reuse and rehabilitation program” to improve existing housing in targeted neighborhoods.
Other recommendations in the 44-page report include:
• Additional Mid-Ohio Food Collective locations in neighborhoods and support for the food bank’s efforts to provide additional personal hygiene products to residents in need.
• The hiring of two additional data analysts at Franklin County Job & Family Services to shape policies and practices to better help individuals and families. And, separately, direct funding for a new human services community referral and exchange system to ensure residents are aware and have easier access to assistance programs aimed at helping them be more self-sufficient.
• The establishment of a “catalyst fund” to promote more collaborative work among the area’s nonprofits.
The recommendations build on or continue efforts already under way, thanks, in part, to federal coronavirus relief funding allocated for Franklin County and Columbus.
O’Grady said area officials are moving forward to implement the new initiatives.
“If this thing ends up on a shelf collecting dust, we’ve done a disservice to the residents of the city, the county and the region,” he said of the final report and recommendations.
“We have to follow through on these recommendations. Everybody was at the table, and this is the work of folks who are concerned about our urban core, who are concerned about our Downtown community, who are concerned about our suburban communities.”
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus economy after COVID: Panel's ideas for equitable recovery