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A Commitment to Information Communication with Josh Maxwell

As the challenging effects of COVID-19 continue across southeast Pennsylvania and beyond, many businesses and non-profits are still struggle to cope. We sat down with Josh Maxwell, one of three Chester County Commissioners, to talk about what the county government is doing to support the local business economy.

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How has Chester County supported local businesses and non-profits during COVID-19?

  • The County government appreciates the value that the business.
  • First COVID-19 case hit Chester County as early as March 13.
  • The County ran an emergency business grant scheme for small businesses:
    • Grants were for up to $25,000 per business
    • The County allocated $5 million for the program
    • The program was focused on supporting businesses who could not pay their bills, like rent.
  • The grant plan was support local area small businesses to get them through the early stages of lockdowns – and to re-assess needs mid-summer.
  • The County understands that the restaurant and hospitality sectors still need significant help.
  • Chester County as a region received $225 million in grant funding from the State of Pennsylvania – the most in the state.
  • The County launched a website to provide relevant and up-to-date information for local businesses at restorechestercounty.org.
  • The County partnered with the Chester County Economic Development Council to deliver the grant scheme and Restore Chester County website.

How has Chester County prioritized communication?

  • “Culture is everything.”
  • The three County Commissioners collectively committed to transparency for their office.
  • The County wanted to open source as much information as possible – and to then trust the public to make the best decisions moving forward.
  • The County distributes information via websites and social media.
  • Chester County has experienced some of the lowest spread rates of COVID-19 in Southeast Pennsylvania.
  • The County government works to share both “good” and “bad” numbers and information as part of its commitment to transparency.

How does Chester County manage its communication efforts?

  • The County declared a state of emergency in March 2020; following that declaration, the County Health Dept. took over the emergency management response room to direct the local response.
  • The County had to produce the websites to share data – and then double-check the data to make sure that it is accurate.
  • Accurate data is hugely important to Chester County to ensure that the public trust the data and information that the County shares.

In light of virtual learning, how is Chester County supporting parents and families with children?

  • Chester County has a population the size of Wyoming in a land area the size of Rhode Island.
  • There are hundreds of schools across the county: public, private, charter, online, and more.
  • It is a challenge to create county-wide policies for such a diverse range of school sizes and formats.
  • The County set out recommendations, but did not set guidelines or rules on schools opening or not.
  • The County is working to produce guidelines and programs to support parents and schools as schools begin to consider re-opening.
  • The County is working to deliver programs for both the short term needs, but also for longer term growth and stability of the local business economy.

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