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Local leaders concerned about revenue losses

A man walks past a retail store that is going out of business due to the coronavirus pandemic in Winnetka, Ill., Tuesday, June 23, 2020.

(The Center Square) – Community leaders across Illinois are concerned about mounting revenue losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, among other things, according to a new survey conducted by the University of Illinois Extension.

Survey responses were collected in May, during the height of the lockdown, from 163 elected officials, business owners and organization leaders in 58 of the state’s 102 counties.

Zach Kennedy, a specialist with Community and Economic Development at the extension, said the survey was a way to gauge how local leaders are responding to the pandemic.

“Obviously, when a crisis like this emerges we like to see how it is impacting our normal stakeholders and what we might be able to do to help them,” Kennedy said.

According to the survey, the biggest challenges local governments and businesses face going forward included reduced revenue, disruptions of community life and threats to health and safety, including mental health. At the time of the survey, which was conducted from May 11-25, economic and budget concerns outweighed worries about a virus resurgence by 7 to 1.

Survey respondents highlighted numerous ways in which the crisis disrupted normal activities. Not only was remote working and remote meeting widely mentioned as a challenge, but several respondents mentioned the lack of face-to-face interaction and the impact on communication as a challenge.

Many respondents called for research-based, non-partisan information and scientific facts. Specifically, respondents mentioned virology and general medical information regarding COVID-19.

Kennedy said one of the most surprising findings in the survey was how respondents view leadership at the state and federal level.

“I think the sense of people’s mistrust of political leadership, something that seems like it would be politically neutral like public health,” Kennedy said.

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