Last week, Michael Bonner, founder and CEO of GovPilot (Hoboken), an e-government management solutions company, got a call from Camden County Deputy Administrator Jim Rhodes, who was instrumental in bringing GovPilot into the county five years ago.
Rhodes asked Bonner if the company could build a few software modules to help Camden County respond to its citizens during the Coronavirus crisis.
Rhodes likes the cloud-based solutions that GovPilot’s team has provided over the years. That gave Bonner an idea. “We thought we should probably just make this free, and put it out in the market, because right now local governments are overwhelmed with getting set up to work remotely while responding to COVID-19. We thought that our cloud-based platform could be useful to local governments, and decided that it was our civic duty to make it easily accessible to all local governments.”
Bonner pointed out that GovPilot’s modules are in the cloud, and that local governments need to have easy access to their systems. “Having to go into the municipal buildings in order to run your government doesn’t work in times like this,” he pointed out.
The tools being offered can be set up and ready to use very quickly, Bonner noted. Municipalities and counties nationwide can sign up for the free tools directly on the website at govpilot.com/free, and they can be ready to work within the system almost immediately. Just one official from a government needs to create an account to activate access across their entire organization, including all departments and employees, Bonner said. After the modules are activated, workers can sign in and do their jobs from home as long as they have a government-assigned email account.
Bonner said that as soon as he made the suite of tools available, the company attracted interest from local governments in several states that are getting hit hard by the virus, including New York; Texas; California; Washington State; and, of course, New Jersey. So, here’s what GovPilot is offering:
- Coronavirus-related receipting and expense tracking for FEMA reimbursement
- Coronavirus drive-through testing resident registration
- Volunteer registration module (for healthcare workers, etc.)
- GIS digital mapping
- “Report a Concern,” via the GovAlert app
- Work orders
- Open records requests, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Open Public Records Act (OPRA)
- IT ticket management
- Contract tracking
- Vehicle and equipment management
The receipting and expense-tracking module will help local governments that may be spending unexpected amounts of money in response to the crisis. “When there’s a natural disaster or national disaster declared, municipal and county governments are entitled to submit their expenses to FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] for up to 75 percent reimbursement,” Bonner said. So, if a town has its 30 police officers working overtime, needs to have a school disinfected or requires more medical supplies, it can submit these COVID-19-related expenses for FEMA reimbursement.
The drive-through testing resident registration module would be great for places that are currently turning people away from testing sites. “Imagine having a 103 fever, driving down to get tested and then being turned away and being told to come back tomorrow,” said Bonner. With the new module, registration can be done online, so only those who are eligible for testing will show up, and at a scheduled time.
The volunteer module would help towns and counties register retired hospital workers, nurses or doctors who might want to participate in efforts to deal with COVID-19, or regular residents who might want to help distribute food. GIS maps will help residents locate essential services, especially temporary services set up to respond to the problem, such as food distribution services in hard-hit towns or temporary screening areas.
The GovAlert app is a popular part of GovPilot’s current offerings, Bonner noted. It’s essential for these times, as it allows the public to report concerns, while cutting down on foot traffic at municipal buildings and paper submissions to local governments.
Tracking IT tickets during a period of remote work will also be helpful. “I’m sure IT ticketing will spike at all local governments because people are working remotely. They’re trying to get configured, trying to get VPNs setup, or trying to get remote desktops working, and so on,” Bonner explained.
GovPilot says that it will make the modules available to governments for free so long as COVID-19 remains a pandemic threat. Current GovPilot N.J. clients include Atlantic City, Trenton, Jersey City, Elizabeth, South Orange, Bergen County, Hudson County, Camden County and others. To learn more, visit govpilot.com.