Most cities have used a variety of techniques to keep services running as normal, or close to it. Some in-person bill payment operations have been adjusted so it isn’t necessary for the public to come to an office — Sugar Hill moved theirs to the Eagle Theater and is waiving fees for online and phone transactions. Water, gas and trash services continue as normal for residents.
For those who don’t have to deal with the public on a daily basis, the switch has been much simpler. Many office-based government employees could easily make the transition to working from home; most just needed to have access to a computer and internet, said Jennifer Boettcher, a spokeswoman for the city of Dunwoody.
“We’re all on the phone and we have VPN access to our systems,” Boettcher said. “It’s different because city hall is closed, but we’re definitely open for business.”
Some governments are still working on how to help some public-facing employees do their jobs without exposing them to health risks. Gwinnett County closed its four main government buildings and won’t reopen until March 24, but is using the time to fine-tune its plans for workers who have to be in the office to accept permit applications, tax licenses and other documents.
For jobs that require interacting with other workers or the public, Gwinnett plans to utilize social distancing — keeping six feet of space between people — and avoiding large groups of people whenever possible, spokesman Joe Sorenson said.
Local governments are largely in uncharted territory with the coronavirus pandemic, but have adjusted emergency plans that have previously been used for short-term issues like winter storms. While social distancing isn’t necessary on a snow day, dovetailing shifts for public works employees and remote operations for office workers have been used before, Bennett said.