Like most of you, we commissioners have spent the last nine months in a new normal- keeping our distance, finding a favorite mask, and trying to remember to unmute ourselves on endless Zoom calls. As you’ll see below, we’ve also been very hard at work to ensure that your county government has been able to keep operating during the pandemic in a way that protects the health of our employees and residents, while also working hard to support all the members of our community who are struggling during this difficult time.
As we reach the end of 2020, about 80,000 of our neighbors have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and unfortunately, more than 700 of them have died. Many thousands more are struggling to find work, to pay their rent or mortgage, or to afford healthcare. At the same time, many businesses have seen their customer base disappear, and the non-profit agencies that can help families in need have seen their donations dry up just when their services are needed most.
In all, the commissioners’ office distributed more than $76 million in CARES Act funding this year to assist Franklin County families through programs such as the Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Initiative, which has helped keep more than 3,000 families in their homes. We also funded grants and loans to small businesses, and aid to the non-profit organizations that so many rely on. To help school children who are suddenly learning from home, we helped provide computers and internet access, and partnered with COSI to bring new STEM educational opportunities directly to them.
In order to address the pandemic in the spring and ensure that everyone affected would be able to receive the treatment they needed for COVID-19, the commissioners funded and coordinated a 1,000-bed overflow hospital facility at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Click the picture to learn more.
The other thing that has defined 2020 is the fight for social justice. The commissioners have aligned their policy priorities in recent years with the recommendations of the Rise Together Blueprint for Addressing Poverty, including recognizing racism a root cause of poverty and working to reduce other barriers such as access to quality affordable housing. In May, the commissioners joined Franklin County Public Health in declaring racism to be a public health crisis. Just six days later, the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police ignited nationwide protests, including in Central Ohio. During that unrest, the commissioners stood up for the rights of protesters, while also demanding a non-violent response from the police to non-violent protests. Since then, the commissioners have stood with local African American leaders in their call for steps to address racism, bias, and unequal treatment of Black people by police, designated Juneteenth as a holiday for county employees, and funded multiple programs to support local minority owned businesses that are struggling in the pandemic economy. This fall, the commissioners created a new office of Equity and Inclusion within the Board of Commissioners, and established racial equity as one of their core principles of governance.
We couldn’t be prouder of our team and how they have performed during all of the challenges of 2020. If you’ve been following Commissioner Connection this year, you will have met some of our team members that we’re so proud of, including Marleise Wicker, Juan Torres, and Laura Repasky.
We also added some new employees to the commissioners’ team this year, taking in CASA of Franklin County, which organizes and trains volunteers to serve as advocates for vulnerable children caught up in the court system as the subjects of abuse and neglect cases. Click the picture to learn more.
Another exciting development in county government this year, despite the pandemic upheaval, is the creation of a new resource for Franklin County food businesses. The Franklin County Food Portal brings together resources to help growers, chefs, entrepreneurs, and other food-related enterprises to grow their businesses even during the pandemic. Click the picture to learn more.
In our community, we continue to see the highest number of cases in those between the ages of 20 and 39 years old. Many young adults, who contract the virus, may develop very mild symptoms or may be asymptomatic, creating a risk to everyone they encounter because the disease spreads so easily. An infected person can infect two others and those two can infect two others and it goes on and on. It is essential that young people adhere to the six-foot social distancing guidelines by avoiding large crowds, huddling in groups, and sharing hugs or drinks.
All of us need to continue to do our part in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Please stay home if you are sick. Get tested if you have symptoms, and then remain at home until you get your test results. If you test positive for COVID-19 or have been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case, cooperate with the contact tracer who calls you, and follow their instructions. The information you provide is another significant step to stop the chain of transmission in our community.
What else can you do? Stay informed. Visit our website at covid-19.myfcph.org for up-to-date information on the number of cases in Franklin County and how our numbers are trending. You can also find testing locations, tips on protecting yourselves and others and a significant number of resources for families, business and the community. Follow us on all social media outlets, too.
We thank the community for its continued efforts to minimize the impact this pandemic is having on our county, and we recognize that it is hard and frustrating at times. We must remain vigilant and take every precaution to protect ourselves including staying home when possible, frequent handwashing, wearing masks and social distancing. Together we will get through this and come out stronger on the other side.
In April, National County Government Month, the commissioners released their annual State of the County report. It’s chock-full of information about how your commissioners are working for you, about the Franklin County team, and statistics about your county government. Click the picture to read the report
, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep up with the Franklin County Board of Commissioners all year long.
Happy New Year, Franklin County!