The crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Grand Junction community in many ways. To help mitigate the effects of the crisis, the City of Grand Junction has worked with agency partners and developed several strategies for continuity of services and economic support. Here's a recap of what measures the City has taken to respond to the pandemic crisis:
The City used a variety of economic strategies to help the community through the crisis:
- Sales, Use, and Lodging Tax Deferral - The focus of this strategy was to support cash flow to businesses. In total 59 businesses, with a reported 890 employees took advantage of the deferral program for a total of $245,000, ($159,000 in sales and use tax and $86,000 in lodging tax). Seven of those businesses have already paid their balances off for approximately $10,000 in sales tax and the current outstanding is $235,000 for 52 businesses.
- #GJStrongAppetite Campaign - The focus of this strategy was to support local restaurants who were impacted during the onset of the pandemic crisis by the restrictions put in place by public health orders. City employees put $81,449.20 into the local economy through this program with the City's investing $44,873.50 as a part of it. The number of City employees who participated was 358.
- #GJStrong Fund - The focus of this strategy was to support community members in need of food and shelter. The City provided $500,000 to non-profits for food and shelter support.
- Support for Business Fixed Costs - The focus of this strategy was to help businesses with fixed costs by filling a gap in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) included in Federal stimulus. The City provided $500,000 to support businesses for rent, mortgage, and other fixed costs.
- Temporary Changes to Charge Structure - The focus of this strategy was to provide temporary relief to local businesses and residents that were negatively impacted by the pandemic. Charges were amended or allowed to be deferred as a part of this strategy.
Through modeling of economic activity, the City projects a loss in revenue of approximately $16 million, which is a 25% reduction on an annualized basis (meaning one-quarter or 3-months at $0 sales). The staff has reduced expenses by approximately $7 million while minimizing the impact on service delivery to the community. Additionally, some capital projects will be deferred to 2021.
Incident Command Systems (ICS)
The City of Grand Junction activated an Incident Command System (ICS) in March to coordinate an effective and efficient response to the COVID-19 pandemic. An ICS structure is typically used for emergent events and as the City transitions into long-term management of the pandemic, the ICS structure was deactivated. City departments now handle specific response actions as coordinated by the City Manager.
Intergovernmental Cooperation & Legislative Advocacy
The City worked closely with Mesa County Public Health to coordinate a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mesa County Public Health is leading the public health response and continues to keep the City informed of public health updates, best practices, and any new state public health orders that may affect the response of the City. The City also worked with our federal delegation to advocate for legislation that helps our residents and local governments. As a result of this work, several pieces of legislation have been introduced with provisions for specific aid to individuals and local governments.
City Council declared a state of emergency from March 23rd through May 6th. The state of emergency was originally declared because of the risk to the personal health and economic welfare of the persons and businesses of the City and the Greater Grand Junction community.
Continuity of Operations Plan & Employee Policies
To protect the health of employees and to ensure continuity of services provided to the community, the City activated its Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP Plan) and developed pandemic policies early in the response. Policies provided guidelines for teleworking, pandemic leave, and best practices for public health such as hand washing. The City also provided all employees with a cloth mask to be worn while working for the purpose of preventing the spread of COVID-19 within the organization and the community. The COOP Plan provided guidance for the organization to continue to provide uninterrupted service to the community.