Mayor Lloyd Winnecke’s Reopen Evansville Task Received This Year’s Accelerate Indiana Municipalities (Aim) Community Program Innovation Award.
The award honors communities that introduced new ideas and methods to carry out municipal activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Winnecke and Deputy Mayor/Evansville Reopen Task Force Chairman Steve Schaefer accepted the award at the Aim Annual Awards Program during the 2021 Aim Ideas Summit.
“The COVID-19 pandemic presented one of the most unprecedented challenges our community has ever faced,” said Mayor Lloyd Winnecke. “To the countless individuals and organizations who helped facilitate our community’s overall pandemic response, thank you.”
Shortly after Governor Eric Holcomb issued a statewide stay-at-home order, Mayor Winnecke created the Reopen Evansville Task Force and appointed Deputy Mayor Steve Schaefer to lead a comprehensive, community effort to address pandemic-related challenges impacting our community.
“Thanks to all partner organizations for their work in providing assistance to our local residents and businesses,” said Deputy Mayor Schaefer. “This award is a testament to our community’s willingness to collaborate when faced with a challenge.”
The Task Force continues to maintain community partners and provide assistance in the following key areas.
- Loans & “Restart” Grants — Through the Department of Metropolitan Development, the Task Force provided four loan/grant financial assistance tools for local businesses. These funds helped businesses purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees and customers. They also provided relief for businesses that were closed or had drastic reductions due to the stay-at-home order.
- Business Town Halls — The Task Force, through a partnership with the Southwest Indiana Chamber (now known as the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership) held a series of business virtual town hall meetings to help connect local businesses with the latest guidance and resources available.
- PPE Marketplace — An online marketplace at reopenevansville.com connected businesses in need of protective equipment with local PPE distributors.
- Outdoor Seating — The Task Force worked with the state and local hospitality industry to expedite permitting process enabling restaurants to temporarily expand their dining areas onto the existing property and public rights-of-way.Quality of Life
- Sanitization — The Task Force facilitated the professional sanitization of local event venues, parks, playgrounds, and other public facilities as needed.
- Major Event Planning — With assistance from the Vanderburgh County Health Department, guidance and phased attendance policies were created for large events, such as the Ohio Valley Conference college basketball tournament and the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship. Both events were held at the Ford Center.Government Operations
- PPE For Employees — Evansville-Vanderburgh County Emergency Management Agency and other stakeholders secured PPE for all local government employees and installed protective screens in frequently-traveled areas of each department.
- Online Services — City government departments moved the majority of city services online. Those government offices became hubs to facilitate community and reopening efforts during the shutdown.Workplace Safety & Testing
- Free Testing — The Task Force partnered with the Indiana Department of Health to provide a centrally-located, free COVID-19 testing site at the C.K. Newsome Community Center.
- Prevalence Study — Deaconess Health System and the Indiana University School of Medicine – Evansville collaborated for a local study on COVID-19 prevalence in the Evansville community.
- Mask Distribution — The Task Force distributed 22,277 masks to local businesses, schools andorganizations.
- Feed Evansville — The grassroots-led Feed Evansville initiative secured USDA Farm to Family combination food boxes through the federal program. Additionally, Feed Evansville raised thousands of dollars to purchase a refrigerated delivery truck and additional food for distribution. Hundreds of volunteers served at the weekly food distribution at Hartke Pool throughout the year. During peak weeks, around 7,000 food boxes were distributed and over 200,000 boxes were handed out in total.
- Commission on Food Security — The Task Force later established the Commission on Food Security to transition Feed Evansville’s efforts and maximize resources between existing food relief organizations.Communication
- Reopen Evansville Resident & Business Assistance Portal — Local businesses and residents were able to find federal, state and local assistance all in one location using the Assistance Portal on the reopenevansville.com website.
- Free Legal Advice Facebook Live — The Task Force held a live online FAQ Facebook live session with the City Attorney. Residents and business owners were able to seek free pandemic-related legal advice.
- PSAs — Public Service Announcements were created to inform the public about mask wearing, food security and vaccinations.The Reopen Evansville Task Force is still working to connect residents and businesses to resources and assistance:
- Reopen House — Hundreds of residents sought local rent and utility assistance at an in-person “Reopen House” event prior to the end of statewide moratoriums on evictions and utility shutoffs.
- Mobile Vaccination Clinic — The City of Evansville offered a METS bus to Vanderburgh County Health Department staff for a mobile vaccination clinic. The mobile clinic has been targeting areas with low vaccination coverage.
City of Evansville
Department of Metropolitan Development Evansville-Vanderburgh Emergency Management Agency Evansville Parks & Recreation Department
Mesker Park Zoo & Botanical Garden
Vanderburgh County Health Department
Ascension St. Vincent
Deaconess Health Systems
Evansville Regional Economic Partnership Evansville-Vanderburgh Convention & Visitors Bureau VenuWorks / Ford Center & Victory Theater
Work One Southwest
Indiana Small Business Development Center
ASM Global / Old National Events Plaza
Vidal Plastics, LLC
Mental Health America of Vanderburgh County