Coronavirus survey provides backdrop to grant programs

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group

Worthington officials have finished analyzing data from a survey seeking to determine how the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has affected the community and to identify areas of need, and they are ready to take action.

The Worthington Community Coronavirus Recovery Survey began in early August and ended Sept. 15. It was completed by 2,359 residents and people who work in or have a connection to the city, with 858 agreeing to be contacted for a follow-up survey.

According to a city news release, the survey results suggest the coronavirus pandemic and its fallout have had adverse effects on personal finances, mental health and small businesses.

Pictured here are some of the businesses on High Street in Old Worthington in November 2019.

Moving forward, David McCorkle, the city's economic-development manager, said the city plans to distribute funding for businesses and organizations to help address these issues through two programs: the Responsible Business Opening & Operations Team Worthington, or ReBOOT Worthington, geared toward small businesses and nonprofit organizations with salaried employees – such as museums and art galleries – and a $100,000 grant program targeting local charitable not-for-profits.

McCorkle said in this scenario, not-for-profit organizations are those with core missions focused on physical and mental well-being, food insecurities and other issues related to overall community welfare. 

Related:Worthy Point of View: ReBOOT Worthington aims to support businesses

“Separately, we’re putting aside $100,000 for true not-for-profits that are focused more on the physical and mental well-being of the greater Worthington area,” McCorkle said.

"We want those dollars to go to organizations that reflect the needs that were identified in the community survey," he said. 

The ReBOOT program already has distributed two rounds of funding totaling $75,000, and McCorkle said the application window for the third round, which totals $225,000, was expected to open the week of Nov. 9. These funds, if awarded, would assist recipients with business and operational expenses.

New applicants are eligible to receive $5,000, and businesses that already have participated in previous rounds are eligible to receive $2,500.

McCorkle said the funds would be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Meanwhile, McCorkle said, about two dozen organizations have been selected by the city to apply for the second grant program, and he anticipates the applications would be sent out in late November.

City spokesperson Anne Brown said the organizations would determine where to appropriate resources to help address community issues that were identified in the survey.

“Each one is taking the (survey) results back and determining how (they can utilize) ... resources they might be able to make available to help meet some of those needs,” Brown said. “The city isn’t structuring all of that response; it’s really up to the community groups to determine.”

The two grant programs are supported through Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding. The CARES Act is a $2.2 trillion economic-stimulus package enacted by the federal government in March 2020 to address the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Survey results

Lisa Fuller, the director of community engagement at Worthington Libraries who led a group of representatives from Worthington-based organizations in development of the survey, said the pandemic’s effect on residents’ mental health was one of the chief findings that stood out in the responses.

“A big takeaway for us was around mental health, and the number of people who said not only were they struggling with mental-health concerns, but the children were, as well,” Fuller said.

According to the survey results, 39% of respondents reported feeling anxious at least three to four days during the previous week.

Forty-seven percent reported feeling low levels of distress, 27% reported feeling medium levels and 26% reported feeling high levels. 

Respondents also reported high levels of boredom (76%), stress (57%), worry (53%), sadness (47%), loneliness (46%) and anger (46%) among their children the previous day.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they “somewhat agreed” and 10% “strongly agreed” they were unsure how to provide their children with the support they need at this time.

Residents’ personal finances and small businesses also suffered setbacks, according to the survey results.

Twenty-four percent of respondents reported they lost income since the pandemic began, and 16% reported their hours have been reduced, 7% reported they were furloughed without pay and 4% reported they were laid off.

Of respondents who run local small businesses, 67% reported losing revenue, 24% reported seriously considering closing their business and 11% reported they were forced to close their business.

According to the survey, more than half of respondents reported they were reluctant to resume normal levels of economic activity despite safety precautions established by local businesses.

More than 50% reported they weren’t willing to enter a coffee shop or visit an art gallery or museum during this time, with more than 60% reporting they were unwilling to patronize local establishments, such as restaurants and bars, entertainment centers and fitness centers.

Fuller said the follow-up portion of the survey was set to begin this month. 

To view the survey’s executive summary with further results, go to worthington.org. 

More:Worthington Community Coronavirus Recovery Survey

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve