By Scott D. Yost
It’s not known how much of a pay increase the Guilford County Board of Commissioners will provide county staff in the upcoming 2021-2022 county budget, but new Guilford County Manager Mike Halford has made it known in a very public way just how appreciative he is of the effort county staff has put in over the very trying last year and three months.
Halford made it a central theme in the annual budget message that he gave to the Board of Commissioners this month when he presented his proposed $617-million county budget.
“Thank you to the entire Guilford County employee team,” Halford’s Budget message stated. “I am so proud of my fellow Guilford County employees for all their work over the last year to help our 540,000 residents navigate the pandemic. Just like the rest of our community, COVID-19 affected our employees’ professional and personal lives in ways none of us could have imagined a year ago. Nevertheless, they continued to provide quality services to our residents and their colleagues with incredible professionalism, patience, and empathy.”
According to Halford, teams of county employees have spent more than 200,000 hours responding to the coronavirus pandemic in the current fiscal year – which began on July 1, 2020. That includes things like investigating COVID-19 outbreaks and contact tracing, collecting and testing over 24,000 sample specimens in Public Health’s internal lab; and administering 112,000 doses of vaccine at three county-run vaccination sites this year.
Halford stated, when he addressed the Board of Commissioners, that these efforts were on top of the regular services that had to be provided “every day by our 2,600-plus dedicated team members.”
For example, he noted, while addressing the pandemic in calendar year 2020, county responders answered 78,000 calls for emergency medical services, and social services staff processed nearly 150,000 applications and recertifications for Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition benefits.
County employees also, Halford said, assisted 9,000 survivors at the Guilford County Family Justice Centers. The county has two centers – one in downtown High Point and one in downtown Greensboro. After the pandemic hit, domestic abuse and other family conflicts that the Justice Centers address increased.
The county’s planning department, Halford said, conducted 38,000 building inspections and the county’s Board of Elections successfully put on a presidential election in a pandemic.
“I truly appreciate all their work and am grateful I am able to serve alongside them,” Halford said of the county’s 2600 employees.