2023 ICMA Conference Recap: How Government Leaders Can Drive Community Transformation with Human-Centered Technology to Optimize Service Delivery

Government agencies across the country are challenged to meet the diverse needs of communities efficiently and effectively. The demand for streamlined and human-centered technology solutions in the government industry has never been more crucial in a world driven by technology and innovation. FORWARD, a trusted program administration partner, provides customized, innovative features and services that empower government organizations to overcome challenges and optimize service delivery.

At this year’s ICMA Conference, Aja Brown, Strategic Impact Partner at FORWARD and former Mayor of Compton, and Kelsey Martin, Director of Client Services at FORWARD,  shared invaluable insights on the future of government program administration and how human-centered technology drives community transformation. Let’s take a closer look at some of the insights FORWARD’s expert team shared at this year’s ICMA conference. 

Streamlining the applicant experience to ensure quick and effective delivery of rental assistance in the City and County of St. Louis

In an ever-changing landscape where government leaders are expected to do more with less capacity and resources, FORWARD distinguishes itself as an expert thought partner for government leaders to develop customized programming solutions that meet the unique needs of community members through human-centered technology

An example of how FORWARD partners with local jurisdictions to deliver critical resources is in the City and County of St. Louis Rental Assistance Program. The City and County were respectively awarded rental assistance funding but did not have the capacity or tools to quickly distribute funding to impacted St. Louis residents. The City and County of St. Louis partnered with FORWARD and a coalition of local community-based partners to design an innovative, first-of-its-kind combined program where residents residing in the County or City can easily apply for rental assistance through a unified online application portal.

FORWARD worked closely with the City and County of St. Louis to design an equitable and accessible application process, utilizing existing partnerships with local community-based organizations to reach targeted communities, streamline application intake and review, expedite award processing, and fulfill regulatory reporting to ensure the City and County stayed in compliance. Within the first three weeks of the program launch, the rent and utility assistance program processed over 2,500 applications and distributed $6.3 million in funding to St. Louis residents, ensuring the City and County stayed compliant.

FORWARD’s Impact in St. Louis

  • FORWARD’s Impact in St. Louis 

    • Over 10,000 rent and utility payments were made, assisting over 7,500 households.
    • Distributed over $6 million in under four weeks to ensure compliance
    • Identified and protected over $7.15 million in rental assistance from attempted fraud, with over 20% of applications flagged as suspicious.

    A challenge faced by the City and County in administering the Rental Assistance Program was the potential confusion among community members about program eligibility due to the City’s location within the County. To address this, FORWARD worked with both entities to create a simplified application process. This allowed tenants, regardless of their location, to apply through a single centralized application, improving data management and reporting on the backend. This streamlined approach facilitated effective program administration for both the City and County, ensuring compliance with funding requirements.

“I absolutely loved working with my FORWARD case manager, Dylan. He kept me in the loop regarding every step of the process.”

~ St. Louis Rental Assistance Applicant

Preventing Fraud and Ensuring Resources Get to the Business That Need It Most in Washington State

At FORWARD, we place significant emphasis on implementing proactive measures to detect and respond to fraud effectively. By flagging suspicious applications and recognizing patterns of fraud, we can identify potential fraudulent activities and take appropriate actions to ensure funding reaches the people who need it most.

A prime example of FORWARD’s commitment to fraud prevention measures is FORWARD’s partnership with the Washington Department of Commerce to administer the Washington Hospitality Grants Program. During the application review process, FORWARD successfully identified and prevented dozens of cases of fraud, resulting in significant savings of over $1,900,000 for the State of Washington. The fraud cases encompassed a wide range of fraudulent activities, including documentation fraud, identity theft, and deceptive practices associated with dissolved businesses. FORWARD’s approach to preventing fraud entailed several key elements, including stringent document review, expert review by in-house fraud subject matter experts, and leveraging data insights.

FORWARD’s Impact in Washington State

    • Administered $80 million to over 1,400 eligible restaurants, hotels, motels, and other businesses in the hospitality industry.
    • Over 35% of awards were granted to minority-owned businesses, while 29% went to Historically Disadvantaged Individuals.
    • Comprehensive resources were offered to businesses lacking a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI), ensuring they could efficiently obtain one.

    FORWARD worked closely with the Washington Department of Commerce to design fraud measures early during the program development process to prevent fraud before funding is distributed to bad actors. With over 80% of FORWARD’s team coming from the public sector, we recognize program integrity’s importance in fostering trust between governments, community-based organizations, and the public. By preventing fraud and effectively utilizing program funding, FORWARD was able to help the Washington Department of Commerce successfully, effectively, and securely administer a state-wide small business grant program. This approach to fraud prevention is a fusion of human proficiency and streamlined procedures.

“The grant came at the perfect time for organizations like Midtown Public House, a family-style pub in Port Angeles. We were contemplating the idea of closing our doors. The grant is giving us some breathing room and a fighting chance to continue serving our community and visitors alike.”

~ Ket Voang, Operator of Midtown Public House, Washington Hospitality Grant Program Awardee

Amplifying Government and Nonprofit Partnerships to Administer Financial Assistance to an Extremely Vulnerable Population through the Los Angeles County Empower_u Fund

FORWARD partnered with Los Angeles County to administer the Los Angeles Empower_u Fund to provide direct cash assistance to an extremely vulnerable population.  As the contracted program administrator, FORWARD provided end-to-end support to design and implement the program in a way that is accessible and equitable. During the program design phase, FORWARD partnered with six community-based organizations that work directly with vulnerable populations to inform the design and intake of the program application, ensuring that the County launched an accessible and equitable application process.  Community-based organizations played a vital role in the program by acting as trusted community messengers and helping residents apply for the Empower_u Fund.

FORWARD’s Impact in Los Angeles

  • Administering $2M in financial assistance to an extremely vulnerable population in Los Angeles County
  • Collaborated and managed six community-based organizations to lead outreach and application intake on behalf of the County 
  • Centralized applicant data in a single platform for easy reporting and auditing for stakeholders
  • Simplified interagency collaboration between the County, community partners, and applicants with forwarding’s Communication Center

FORWARD amplifies existing collaboration between governments and community-based organizations through our user-friendly platform, allowing stakeholders to serve more people and meet funder requirements. While each agency brings its expertise and technical assistance services to the table, all program data is consolidated in FORWARD’s centralized platform, which allows the County to understand program impact in real-time. County staff, nonprofit service providers, and FORWARD support staff are able to communicate directly with applicants from their application profiles through FORWARD’s Communication Center. All communication transcripts are saved and tracked, simplifying County reporting and auditing.

The future of government is NOW! Long gone are the days when government teams have to work alone, communicate in silos, and try to solve society’s greatest challenges without technology and modernized workflows. 

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Join the community of government partners across the nation who have harnessed the power of FORWARD to maximize their capacity and optimize service delivery to their communities.

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