New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration manages rental assistance on the cloud

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“New Mexico is a unique blend of citizens and that is shown in how we live, how we support each other, and how we work together. Our residents deserve personalized treatment and that is what we deliver,” said Joseph Baros, Chief Information Officer at the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration (DFA). “In New Mexico, there can be a large disparity between classes and when providing excellent constituent services, that is not to be overlooked.” The New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration guides, serves, and supports public entities to ensure fiscal responsibility through oversight and advice, problem solving support, and budget direction to state agencies and local governments.
 
 

Joey Baros and team are passionate about assisting officials and employees of the local public bodies in New Mexico to maintain budget and fiscal integrity for the benefit of the citizens. In other words, the DFA stands by their duty to the state and governing bodies to ensure solutions, advice, and business practices are sound and enforced. With expansion and extension of federal grants and funds to be awarded, the DFA became responsible for the management, oversight, and compliance aspect of distributing rental assistance to seeking residents.The goal is to allocate funds in a professional and efficient manner with a means of total transparency from start to finish.

“We pride ourselves in the ability to overcome the obstacles and implications that come our way and still bring success to our people, even as a lesser-fortunate state,” said Baros. “Even in times when we feel we should not succeed, we are coming out on top because of the narrative and culture of our mission.” As new light shed on the mission, Baros and team set out for a platform system that could award funds quickly and effectively. “The cloud reintroduced a sense of normalcy to our mission and allowed us to be an anywhere, anytime type of service provider, for both our applicants and our employees,” Baros added.

Introducing digital transformation to the rural region.

In light of COVID-19, the organization was presented with new challenges on how they would continue to provide service and work through unprecedented times. “Parts of New Mexico, because we are a rural state, do not have broadband access which became a challenge during the remote work initiative,” said Baros. “We needed to first obtain things like VPN access, security, and hardware equipment to enable our workforce to do their job at home before we could continue providing services to our citizens. Even then, connectivity and wireless speeds varied, making remote work a major challenge for us at the DFA.”

Introducing a platform that could allocate funds quickly and efficiently was vital to the team. “Once we adjusted to the anytime, anywhere aspect of providing service that was becoming a new sense of normalcy, not all our staff home networks were the same,” said Baros. “In government, we have regulations and compliances that we need to meet in order to do our job best and ensure due diligence. We provided training to our employees on being smart end users and shared best practices for wireless activity so that we could get back to focusing on the mission.”

Mobility would also come into play as New Mexico worked against the clock to deploy a system with partner MTX that would meet the aggressive desired timeline. “MTX was dedicated to us, following through with their remarkable availability and knowledge to help us develop and deploy the best user-experience possible for our people,” Baros added. “MTX was as committed to us as we are to our citizens which allowed us to prioritize considerations and look for the best way to modernize operations and scale through unexpected times.”

A mission driven on speed and security.

Baros and team launched an emergency rental assistance application to manage all the federal grants and funds that were awarded to the state for disbursement. Already enforcing the responsibilities of the Department of Finance, the team was now operating in two roles (A) as an agency that was already responsible for financial compliance checks on residents and (B) as an emergency rental assistance program to track funds more efficiently and help award dollars to qualifying agencies. “We are using the application built out to leverage our experience and expedite the process of disbursing funds,” said Baros. “We combined our desire for security with the simplicity of an excellent customer service experience in a fail-safe way so that we could validate the individual and their needs prior to awarding funds. We do not want to see this money go overseas, and our partnership with the state Tax and Revenue Department to crosscheck applications has ensured we are investing in the future of our people and the state of New Mexico.” The cross-agency collaboration optimized operations by being able to recognize applicants that were already approved for other programs in the state and automating their payment of funds.

In three weeks with the partnership of MTX, the application goes live from the DFA website where constituents can engage with it directly. “Moving to the cloud for an organization like the Department of Finance Administration paints a picture that robust systems can be stood up in a matter of weeks and not years,” shared Bryce Sutherland, Account Executive from MTX. “Joey and his team had a vision and a tight timeline but with teamwork, we were able to launch an end to end ERAP solution both quickly and effectively.” Here is how it works:

  • Security and compliance on the cloud:

The system is built on Government Cloud Plus and is powered by the Salesforce Customer 360 Platform. With a customer-centric architecture, Baros and team built a solution to address citizen expectations, to adjust with past and current security challenges, and to adapt to the ever-changing compliance requirements that government agencies are faced with.

Shield is layered on to allow for Platform Encryption to help enhance protection and increase monitoring of data stored in the system.

  • Identifying a need:

When an individual goes in to apply for funds, they are invited to create a user ID with their email and password from the external facing DFA webpage via Experience Cloud. This contact information is stored and used throughout the lifecycle of the application to provide the resident with updates in real time. The applicant will fill out required demographic information as well as other preliminary questions before submitting their request for approval.

  • Increasing customer satisfaction:

Once an application is submitted, the DFA will work with the Tax and Revenue Department and the Human Services Department to review and cross-check applications to ensure validity. A case will be opened in Service Cloud where the process will be monitored and managed from a pre-audit stage until it reaches the grant processor and funds are awarded. “We are able to automatically route cases, track customer assets, and view each applicant in a 360-degree view,” Baros added. “This has allowed us to disburse funds more quickly and efficiently with guarantee that they are being awarded appropriately.”

 

We are using the platform to leverage our experience and expedite the process of disbursing funds so that we can allocate dollars quickly and accurately.”

Joseph Baros Chief Information Officer, New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration

Case management on the cloud to consider all angles.

$53.7 M dollars have been awarded since April 5th, 2021 and there is a second round of funds that will be disbursed in October, 2021. “We are confident that with this application, we will be able to continue pushing out money quickly and effectively for several years to come, and providing the ultimate customer service experience while doing so,” Baros said. “When providing excellent service, it is important to look at the process from both sides. I put myself in the shoes of our residents when building the application and ensured it was simple and user-friendly.”

The team has received 20,000 total applications and counting and approved over 22,000 individual awards, but great work cannot be done alone. Baros suggests “look where you can partner with other agencies or entities— like we did with New Mexico state Taxation and Revenue and the Human Services Department— to leverage other resources and best practices.” “With the right partner, ours being MTX, and high levels of commitment from both parties, teamwork will make any dream work,” concluded Baros.

 

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