May 5, 2021–By Insha Momin
Even as vaccines roll out and the end of the pandemic draws closer, states across the country continue to face ongoing challenges in addressing the economic fallout of COVID-19. Many states have shifted their attention to recovery efforts in order to build more resilient and economically stable communities.
In August 2020, the State Chief Data Officers (CDO) Network based at the Beeck Center released Leveraging Data for Economic Recovery: A Roadmap for States, a collection of best practices that aims to help states achieve their recovery goals through strategic use of data. The roadmap highlights specific use cases where data can be leveraged for economic recovery across four main areas: workforce and education, health and benefits, neighborhood well-being, and budget reallocation.
State CDOs are essential to the process of implementing these use cases, and have been using insights from the roadmap to more effectively deliver key services to their constituents. North Carolina, California, and Connecticut serve as examples of states where CDOs have recently spearheaded data-driven plans and utilized their technical leadership for pandemic response and recovery. Here are three leading examples of the lessons leveraged from our roadmap:
1. Improving broadband in North Carolina.
As COVID-19 increased our reliance on digital devices and the Internet, it exposed inequalities in broadband access. In response, North Carolina implemented dashboards to improve broadband data reporting. Designed to provide information on broadband coverage and quality by a county-by-county and address-by-address basis, the dashboards accumulate data gathered from households and businesses through a statewide survey. According to the state, the data will help policymakers determine which counties require the most attention and funding for better access to high-speed Internet. The dashboards play a crucial component in achieving the state’s goal: to ensure affordable access to broadband services to every North Carolinian.
2. Addressing homelessness in California.
Economic hardship during the pandemic has threatened housing stability as many individuals face threats of eviction and homelessness. In response to rising housing inequality, California created and launched the Homeless Data Integration System (HDIS) in early April 2021. HDIS will allow the state to access more accurate data in order to inform policy aimed at preventing homelessness in California. The data reflects accurate counts of people experiencing homelessness, the occurrence and duration of homelessness, intervention practices, and patterns of usage among state-funded services. By publishing standardized data on statewide counts of homelessness, California has provided the transparency we need in order to alleviate homelessness.
3. Increasing access to food assistance benefits in Connecticut.
The economic consequences of the pandemic left many struggling to access basic necessities like food. Since state governments are responsible for distributing federal food assistance benefits, Connecticut decided to strengthen its food assistance programs by utilizing data-sharing agreements to match student and SNAP benefit data. This certified SNAP Pandemic EBT helped alleviate food insecurity for the 287,000+ students who would normally receive free or reduced-price meals in-person at their schools. The state also integrated data to provide meals to students who do not receive food assistance through SNAP, Medicaid, or other programs. Connecticut’s successful data-driven approach helped combat food insecurity among students.
Many other states are also taking guidance from the roadmap and employing similar use cases to help them understand which of their policy programs could benefit from applying data. In the coming months, the Beeck Center will be offering programming to support state data integration and collaboration by sharing leading ideas and helping scale them among CDOs. With these efforts, it’s crucial that states continue to incorporate data and break down silos in order to help people in vulnerable situations achieve economic stability.
Insha Momin is a sophomore in the Walsh School of Foreign Service and a student analyst at the Beeck Center supporting the State Chief Data Officers Network. Connect with her on LinkedIn.