Dear Franklin County Residents,
Welcome to the 2021 State of the County report for Franklin County. We want to thank you for giving us a few minutes of your time. The county always provides a large variety of vital services and programs for residents in its role as the primary provider of social services; but that role took on historic proportions throughout 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This annual report not only captures and highlights the key services and assistance that were critical to many residents during these troubling times, it also showcases some of our plans and hopes for a better tomorrow. We operate under the mantra of helping “Every Resident, Every Day” because we know that for Franklin County to succeed, we must all succeed together. The year 2020 was monumentally challenging due to the pandemic, the subsequent economic struggles and social unrest which flared several times in 2020.
COVID-19 was detected in Ohio on March 9, and by the end of the year, more than 90,000 residents were diagnosed with the virus in Franklin County. More than 1,250 of those patients would die from it in 2020 alone. Vaccines for the virus became available in early 2021, while the number of new cases continued at a high level. Of course, statistics even as alarming as these don’t begin to reflect the difficulties many families faced.
This report will not only provide an overview of county services, it also records a few ways in which this microscopic virus altered daily life, created hardships and forced substantial changes in government. In addition, we also share a few of the stories of sacrifice and com-passion witnessed as we came together as a community.
The virus forced government services to move almost entirely online in a matter of days or weeks. The state experienced record unemployment as businesses were forced to close. To assist, we, your Franklin County Commissioners, began a massive re-shifting of funds to help residents and providing about $76 million in CARES Act funding Millions were moved to help residents avoid evictions, as well additional millions to help nonprofits cope with extraordinary demand. The structure of some county programs was altered, including allowing all senior citizens to receive free meals sent to their home so more people could safely shelter in place. We also created workforce training programs to help thousands of low-income residents who were out of work or under-employed, move into high-demand careers that offered stable benefits and middle-class pay.
We made sure businesses were also assisted, with tailored approaches for the various needs. The county approved new revolving loans, special aid for small and minority-owned businesses, especially those that had been denied federal help, and financial assistance to assist with the high, unexpected costs of personal protection equipment needed to remain operational.
And we are proud to say the county accomplished this and more without faltering; no res-idents were ever denied service, staff were not furloughed or laid off, and all services were maintained.
During this difficult year, the county also led the push for racial equity. Franklin County declared racism a public health crisis and made racial equity one of our core principles of governance. Also in 2020, numerous recommendations were carried out from the Rise Together, a Blueprint for Reducing Poverty report, which the commissioners published in 2019 in consultation with a consortium of public and private leaders. That report led in 2020 to the creation of a leadership council which will oversee short- and long-range equity goals that had been recommended in the report.
Furthermore, Franklin County maintained its status as one of the most fiscally responsi-ble counties in America and one of Franklin County’s healthiest employers.
Despite all the struggles we faced and continue to battle, we are excited for the future. We know this unified, fiscally-conservative, yet socially-progressive approach will allow us all to see greater growth in the future.
Stay safe and well,