Madison company identifies municipal responses to COVID-19 pandemic

As small governments and municipalities feel the effects of COVID-19 on their communities and budgets, the question many are asking is, “How are others handling this?” Taralinda Willis, co-founder and CEO of Madison-based Curate, is hoping her company can help provide some answers.

Curate is a software platform that aggregates municipal meeting data from cities, counties, school boards, townships, and villages across the country. It offers a subscription-based service that provides curated information to the construction industry, lobbying agencies, and other clients so they can identify business opportunities and react to potential legislative changes affecting their businesses and industries.  

To answer the need for municipal information regarding COVID-19, Curate launched covid19.curatesolutions.com, a free weekly snapshot of what local governments around the nation are doing in response to the pandemic. “To be honest, we were in a really unique position of having this incredibly valuable dataset of the changes that are happening in these municipalities,” remarks Willis. “As a civic intelligence platform, we have a strong belief that everyone should be engaged in what's going on, and we thought this was a good way to help people do that.”

Last week alone, Curate scanned more than 280,000 documents in over 10,000 municipalities and found more than 2,600 discussions about COVID-19. These discussions range from handling event cancellations at a park commission meeting to a decision to scan temperatures of municipal building occupants at a city council meeting. The discussions are an “ear to the ground” on what is being discussed in and around the current health crisis.

A heatmap of discussions about COVID-19 impacts in municipalities throughout the month of April.

 

The idea behind the pandemic-specific website was a mix of business savvy and civic duty for the company. The business goal was to provide the information to the public as a way to share how Curate works. “We think it’s an interesting opportunity to share the power of Curate and what we’re building here,” Willis states. She also stressed the importance of providing the information free of charge so that people can be involved with the decisions that affect them. As more and more decisions are decentralized away from the federal government, Willis sees this as gaining even more importance.

“Our customers are very concerned about the decreasing revenue in municipalities and where they are going to make that up,” she says. As each municipality grapples with how to continue to provide services and where funding is going to come from, they are looking for information on best practices.

A weekly snapshot from Curate of municipal documents reviewed a number of discussions about COVID-19.

 

“Cities are changing really fast,” Willis observes. “The federal government has pushed a lot of the decision-making onto the states, and in some states that power has been pushed down to the county. We think that’s really, really interesting to watch because county by county, they make different decisions.”

Willis points out that as local and state governments look to reopen the economy, the decisions being made — and how they are made — will affect people and businesses in different ways. “It’s the most important work we can do right now,” she says.

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