Local governments will need to get creative with budgets this year

Published 6:15 pm Friday, April 3, 2020

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It’s hard to imagine, but the tree pollen coating everything outside is a welcome annoyance this year. While usually a curse-able offense by trees, this year the yucky green stuff is an indication that life does go on despite the science-fiction-scary-movie situation we are in with COVID-19. Add to that the bright yellow, red, purple and pink blooming flowers, tiny tree leaves tentatively stretching open, and even the explosion of weeds gives one hope that this too shall pass.

And humans, being the ingenious, creative creatures that we are, are adapting to the new, albeit temporary, lifestyle.

Many of us have now learned to do all sorts of activities via video, chat or whatever is the platform of your choice. Although it’s a poor substitute for actual face-to-face conversations, meetings and such, it’s better than nothing. Restaurants are doing their best to sell meals via internet orders, takeout and curbside delivery. Other businesses are doing well as people compulsively stock up. Residents can help by supporting those businesses and workers most hit by this crisis, either now or when it’s over — restaurants, hair salons and barber shops, hotels, fitness centers, and especially churches, as donations will most certainly drop off as long as the pews are empty each Sunday.

Still, there is that lurking fear that this will cause irretrievable harm for a long time to come and only time will answer that concern.

Thankfully, the federal and state government have provided some assistance and hopefully, these businesses and organizations can bounce back when this is over, although some may not.

We have learned to shop for groceries now with an eye for what is on the shelf, rather than what we wanted and put on our list. Now folks are stalking tractor trailers making deliveries to stores to get first pick of what has become scarce items — toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer, cans of soup, eggs, milk, bread. Seems odd that it’s come to that, but it has for those helping the elderly who are too scared to leave their homes during this crisis.

Speaking of stocking up, it’s time to stop hoarding toilet paper. Really.

What will be lost for schoolchildren and teens is a semester of school, but that cannot be helped at this point. Teachers and administrators are doing the best they can to keep in contact with their students, but there are limits with this new arrangement. When these kids grow up, this winter and spring with COVID-19 will be something they will likely never forget. It’s not as severe and as long-lasting as the Depression was for their grandparents and great-grandparents, but definitely a serious setback that will require recovery time.

But do not let the warm spring weather deter anyone from keeping up the discipline of social distancing and hand washing. If one is to be compulsive about anything, let it be those two activities.

There are reports of those who appear to be ignoring the order to keep a distance of six feet. That isn’t cool at all, and in fact, can be downright dangerous to everyone else. This is the choice our country and our state has made to beat this virus and it needs to be followed through to the end.

In addition to tree pollen, April usually signals budget season for local governments. This year, Franklin’s City Council, Southampton County’s Board of Supervisors and the governments of the incorporated towns in the county are going to have to be creative with meetings and getting through the public process due to COVID-19.

Fortunately, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has allowed localities to conduct business electronically if necessary. The trick will be with coming up with a way to allow for resident participation, but given the myriad of ways we have all been communicating recently, it is hopefully something that can be accomplished properly.