Funding is necessary for building and fire-prevention code compliance right now
When the United States first began experiencing the effects of COVID-19, no one could have imagined the all-encompassing impact the virus would have on our society. Congress is currently at a standstill regarding the next pandemic response bill. Even if a deal is reached, disagreements over state and local aid means that any additional assistance provided will not be nearly enough to address outlays and shortfalls. State and local governments need to continue to lead the charge in managing the pandemic response and subsequent economic recovery using the resources currently available to them.
This includes $150 billion provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress and signed into law in March. That funding was directed to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments for “necessary expenditures” with respect to the pandemic, including “expenses to improve telework capabilities for public employees to enable compliance with COVID-19 public health precautions.”
As it stands, most of these dollars have – rightfully so – gone to supporting each region’s healthcare infrastructure to ensure hospitals as well as medical and first response professionals can provide the necessary care for combating the virus. But with much of this funding not yet spent, those with available funds should consider the important and vital role building safety departments play in their community’s pandemic response. In many communities building safety is considered an essential function during the pandemic and will be an essential part of the economic recovery. However, despite their vital role and impact on adjacent industries, such as commercial construction, real estate, and home builders, many building safety officials are struggling to maintain the high-level of functionality needed to perform essential duties.
Chronic under-resourcing has led to shortcomings that were exacerbated by the pandemic. According to an International Code Council survey, 93 percent of the more than 1,100 building and fire prevention departments surveyed were still performing inspections, but 6 in 10 respondents did not have the capabilities to carry out critical functions remotely. Upgrading building departments with the tools needed to perform essential tasks virtually – from approving electronic permits to conducting virtual inspections – can speed-up construction of both residential and commercial projects and improve customer service without sacrificing public safety.
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