Case Study: Takoma Park Direct Cash Assistance Program

FORWARD Impact in Takoma Park, MD

  • Distributing $1.3M in direct cash assistance to Takoma Park households
  • 1,346 households received a one-time direct cash assistance grant of $1,000 
  • Prevented 287 instances of fraud, resulting in significant savings of more than $287,000
  • Held two in-person application intake events to target an underserved monolingual-Amharic Ethiopian population in the City and developed a step-by-step guide for in-person application support events for the City

“Takoma City residents continue to be burdened by the economic ramifications of the pandemic and are in need of immediate relief. FORWARD expanded the City’s capacity to manage the direct cash program while being sensitive to the cultural, linguistic, and technology needs of the community, mitigating potential barriers for community members.”

Roz Grigsby, Community Development Manager for Planning, City of Takoma Park

Program Overview

In October 2022, FORWARD contracted with the City of Takoma Park, MD, to provide a one-time $1,000 direct cash assistance to eligible households negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the Takoma Park Direct Cash Assistance Program, FORWARD worked closely with the City to provide end-to-end program administration services, including program design, application intake, processing, fraud prevention, award distribution, and reporting.

What were the challenges that Takoma Park faced prior to working with FORWARD?

What solutions did FORWARD provide? 

Since Takoma Park is a small jurisdiction, a high number of applications were outside the City of Takoma Park limits. 

FORWARD developed a geographic information system (GIS) mapping tool where applicants could enter their address and verify that they live within the boundaries of the City of Takoma Park wards 1 to 6.

Many households faced language or technology barriers when applying. 

FORWARD hosted three in-person events to support underserved community members that needed Amharic language assistance or application assistance. FORWARD also offered multilingual technical assistance via phone, text, and email. 

The program experienced a high level of potential applicant fraud.  

FORWARD implemented proactive measures to detect and address fraud by examining IP addresses and identifying duplicate phone numbers. 

Increasing access to underserved populations

Takoma Park has one of the largest Ethiopian populations outside of Ethiopia with many community members being monolingual Amharic speakers. As such, many applicants needed language and technology assistance to complete their application. To ensure equitable access for the most underserved Takoma Park residents, the City, in conjunction with FORWARD, hosted two in-person application assistance events. FORWARD partnered with local community-based organizations, such as the Ethiopian Community Center and Shepherd’s Table, to provide multilingual application assistance to community members. A total of 150 households were served through the in-person events.

Data was collected on what race each applicant identified as. Over 57% identified as Black or African American.

Preventing Fraud, Waste, and Abuse

Throughout the program administration process, FORWARD identified and prevented 287 instances of fraud through robust data security measures and stringent fraud prevention processes, such as identifying duplicate applicant information and IP address examination, resulting in substantial savings exceeding $287,000. During the application review process, FORWARD specialists are trained to identify potential fraudulent activity across programs such as duplicate applicant information and phone numbers. Suspicious activity such as the same IP address is reported to a FORWARD Fraud Expert who then determines if the application is fraudulent. 

At every stage of the process, FORWARD collaborated closely with the City to ensure the secure distribution of funds and compliance with American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) regulations and reporting requirements.

Ensuring Eligible Residents Receive Assistance

Takoma Park is a small suburban city that only spans 2.09 square miles. As word got out about the Direct Cash Assistance Program, the City received an overwhelming influx of applicants outside of the City limits. To ensure timely processings of eligible applications, FORWARD quickly developed a solution to screen ineligible applicants by creating a geographic information system (GIS) mapping tool where applicants could enter their address and verify that they live within the boundaries of the City of Takoma Park wards 1 to 6.

Data was collected on the reason for each application denial. Over Over 30% of applications were denied due to fraudulent behavior.

Delivering Essential Funding to Takoma Park Households

The partnership between FORWARD and the City of Takoma Park, along with Takoma Park community-based organizations, has been instrumental in the success of the Takoma Park Direct Cash Assistance Program. Together, FORWARD and Takoma Park were able to administer approximately $1.3 million in direct cash assistance to underserved households.

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