We’re living amid some of the most complex and dynamic challenges that any mayor or governor has had to face.

We’re months into a global pandemic that’s fueling public health and economic crises throughout the U.S., and there’s no end in sight. It’s also an election year fraught with general uncertainty. And if that weren’t enough, wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters are fueling additional challenges in many parts of the country. City and state coffers are strained – and poised to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Many local and state governments are looking for the most effective ways to use the federal aid distributed earlier this year as part of the Coronavirus Relief Fund within the CARES Act. Most would agree that it’s good to have some “money in the bank.” Understandably many state and local leaders I’ve spoken with have been hesitant to allocate these funds when so much about the virus and its impacts on tax receipts and government expenditures remains unknown.

But as Congress continues to negotiate on the next round of stimulus, state and local leaders must begin to act – using these funds in a manner that addresses each jurisdiction’s high-priority needs and complies with myriad federal requirements that accompany this funding. And with the December 30, 2020 deadline looming, it has to be done quickly.

With the depth and breadth of the needs at hand, decisions need to be made strategically and effectively and, in some ways, differently from in the past.

A top priority for state and local leaders is enabling high-impact digital citizen services at pace and scale to help overcome some of the challenges faced by the population. It’s also difficult because of the need to balance digital and non-digital services to serve those whose preferences and/or resources preclude them from interacting online.

This is a time for leaders to affirm that everyone is in this together. Find ways to collaborate with neighboring states and locales; after all, other governors or mayors in your region are facing many, if not all, of the same challenges. It makes sense to reach across boundaries to partner for success.

To amplify the impact of your CARES Act funding (and accelerate your ability to use it), join forces to engage with business partners as a regional consortium to address some of your common challenges. Consider how you could work together to a leverage a grants management solution for tracking and reporting on spend; or how you might jointly create new employee training and enablement capabilities to help staff operate critical government infrastructure during the hybrid period of working.

A collaborative approach brings more bargaining power and greater ability to manage through constrained resources. The challenges and priorities are more similar than different – even taking into account local distinctions.

Regional collaboration and collective strategic thinking can help speed your ability to address some of your most immediate priorities and accomplish more than you could if you tackled this alone. The challenges (and the deadline) demand it. Besides, the payoff – faster, more effective and more innovative results – will be worth it.

Let’s stay in touch. You can reach me on LinkedIn and via Twitter.

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Ryan Oakes

Senior Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting, Global Public Service

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