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Local Leaders Present Pandemic Recovery Plans For Columbus

A view of the downtown Columbus skyline from Franklinton.
Mary Rathke
A view of the downtown Columbus skyline from Franklinton.

A committee of dozens of local leaders on Wednesday presented plans developed over the past year for how to recover from the pandemic and prepare for future economic crises.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said the focus of The Recovery and Resiliency Committee has been to address dozens of systemic disparities exasperated by the pandemic —from housing and food security to digital inclusion and economic opportunity.

"My charge for this committee was clear -- to identify vulnerabilities in our community and to chart our course towards systemic community change, all through an equity lens," said Ginther.

The committee is made up of 35 business, non-profit, human service, and community leaders. It presented a reporttoday that made 37 recommendations for the city, area non-profits, and public and private sectors to address systemic disparities.

Ginther said the committee will utilize funds from multiple sources, including capital and operating budgets. The city has already allocated tens of millions of dollars in federal recovery funding.

"In partnership with City Council, [we’ve made] critical investments in childcare, our emergency shelter system, as well as youth services employment and programming,” said Ginther.

The reports lists specific costs for some program recommendations, such as childcare items totaling hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Costs for other parts are being calculated. Some of the recommendations do not have a price tag necessarily attached to them, such as suggested policy or organizational changes for housing in the city.

President and CEO of the YWCA of Columbus Christy Angel is a member of the committee and said one of their goals is to disrupt systems that are "holding the city back," including the childcare system. The committee's report makes more than a dozen recommendations for childcare.

“Child care is a broken system in this community," said Angel. "It’s a business model that does not work very well for anyone, and we want to disrupt that. And so you’re going to see some recommendations and you’re going to be like, ‘Whoa’. But ‘whoa’ is needed.”

Executive Vice President of Columbus State Community College Dr. Rebecca Butler said as part of those childcare recommendations, the college will implement the following: provide no-cost educational opportunities to increase the numbers of credentialed childcare workers, serve as a regional employment hub for childcare providers to recruit new professionals, and invest in a multimillion-dollar childcare center at the college’s downtown location.

“This center will not only support our students, so many of them working parents, but it will support the neighborhood and the community that immediately surrounds this campus,” said Butler.

The childcare center will be developed through bond funds approved by Franklin County voters last year.

Additional areas the recommendations focus on include workforce development, small business and minority business growth, infrastructure planning, the benefits gap, and eviction challenges.