New Tool to Help SLCo Municipalities Assess COVID-19’s Economic Impact
Posted By Regional Development
July 07, 2020
SALT LAKE COUNTY — In March, seemingly a lifetime ago, the community was just responding to the increasing public health risk of COVID-19. As efforts to limit the spread were put into place to keep residents safe, Salt Lake County was also concerned about understanding how COVID-19 would affect other areas of life.
The Salt Lake County Economic Impact Working Group was formed that same month with the goal to understand and mitigate the effects of COVID-19. While there are dozens of economic indicators on a federal and state level, assessing local economic impacts on a monthly basis proved to be more difficult. And yet, local economic indicators are crucial to fiscal staff and elected leaders making data-driven decisions.
The Economic Impact Information Portal was created to address that gap after surveying cities in the valley. The tool provides targeted support to municipalities by increasing accessibility to local data and visualizing indicators, like monthly sales tax disbursements, Class B & C Road Funds, and a model of fiscal impact.
The new economic tool can be accessed at https://slco.org/slcomunidata
Multiple municipalities were interested in seeing and comparing the economic downturns of the Great Recession to the current time of COVID-19; a dashboard visualizing taxable sales from 2006-2020 allow
"Statewide economic impact estimates exist, but cities told us that these statewide estimates didn't match the local context for many sectors,” said Saskia DeVries, a Data and Performance Analyst for the Office of Data and Innovation. “For instance, some tourism-dependent towns expect much sharper declines in accommodations and food service sales. We built an interactive model to allow the experts in these local economies, the municipal fiscal analysts, to adjust the impact estimates themselves."
For example, a dashboard visualizes historic taxable sales comparing 2019 and 2020, showing decreases in multiple major business NAICS categories beginning with the onslaught of COVID-19 cases in Utah. However, it also shows that some industries saw increases – food and beverage stores, online retailers and building and gardening suppliers for home improvement.
Another interesting finding gathered from the visualizations is Magna Township’s unusually large increase in taxable sales in March and continuing into April, while other municipalities saw decreases. Construction jumped significantly, and might be put into context when one recalls Utah’s 5.7 magnitude earthquake hit Magna the hardest.
These new ways to interact with local data are possible because of the swift collaboration of multiple key agencies in the state with the Salt Lake County Office of Regional Development and Office of Data & Innovation, including: the Utah State Tax Commission, Utah Department of Transportation, Department of Workforce Services, Utah League of Cities and Towns and others.
Salt Lake County anticipates adding new data sets throughout COVID-19 economic recovery efforts as it continues to innovate with partners to meet the needs of the valley. This tool can also increase residents’ access and understanding of important data sets used by local governments.