Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Within a few weeks of the pandemic first broke out and communities moved into shutdown mode, City of Takoma Park, a city in Maryland bordering Washington DC, was one of the first to implement an initiative of a citywide emergency grant to support local business owners.
Within a week after announcing the program, the city received applications from an overwhelming number of local businesses, many of whom have lost almost all revenue and are in urgent need of funding to pay rent, utilities, health insurance, etc. To keep track of these businesses and applications in the city's Bludot portal, the city added a label "Emergency Grant Applicant" so they can then easily get to it with one click in the menu. Within the "Emergency Grant Applicant" label, the city then added a sublabel "Awarded" to keep track of those who received the grant. With these labels, it would be able to provide specific metrics and additional insights such as the businesses' distribution and engagement activity.
The city then used the map view to visualize where the business applicants as well as awardees are located. Seeing their geographic distribution is critical in providing the necessary insights as it relates to the city's economic development goals. "This is an area of concern because we are interested in making sure that we address the racial equity needs for our businesses of color, and in our immigrant businesses as well. So the question from our city is always 'did we reach everybody?'" Samira Cook Gaines, Economic Development Manager for the city. "This right here really saved me so much time just to click the button to a screenshot and send it straight to our City Council... We know that our city is making decisions very quickly in this emergency situation, and we're able to give them a really quick visual snap to see that yes we've reached everyone, and yes the distribution is fitting of our outreach goals."
The city has also been communicating with the business owners through the communications wall. For those awarded the grant, the city made the announcements through Bludot, as well as subsequent communications around the logistic of completing the grant process. For those that did not receive the grant, the city did not close the door on them either; instead, they put the businesses on a wait-list while they got to work raising more funds. "This is good information to know when we talk about how far our outreach went and who is able to take advantage of our grant program. It also has helped us advocate for funds." said Samira, "The fundraising virtually doubled the amount of awards we could make."
These funds have provided much needed support to the local community. "We are forever grateful!" One local business owner messaged to the city via the Bludot portal. In addition to grant-related communication, the city has also been sending group posts to all business owners sharing other available resources.
Lastly, the city uploaded all applications they received to each corresponding business's profile. As they come in contact with each business, they can see what that business filled out immediately within the platform which provides relevant context. "It's not in some separate excel sheet that we then have to click through several folders to get to; we can see it all right here."
To view the complete video from City of Takoma Park sharing tips and examples of how they are using the system, click here.