Delivering homeowner assistance funds quickly to people in need with the cloud
If you don’t have stable housing, it’s hard to focus on anything else. Finding and keeping a job, staying healthy, raising a family — all the building blocks of a good life end up taking second place to worrying about where you’re going to sleep at night.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, by December 2020 the number of US households three months or more behind on their mortgage had increased 250% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Advocates and policy makers anticipated that job losses, reduced hours, and deaths would cause many households to fall behind on their mortgages, property taxes, and homeowners insurance, increasing foreclosures.
To prevent this, the federal government awarded states $10 billion. This funding — officially called the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF), and delivered under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 — required sign-off from the US Department of the Treasury to access and the funds needed to be distributed quickly. To tackle these dual challenges, states needed to rapidly design and deploy new programs and workflows. Amazon Web Services (AWS) customer ProLink Solutions helped states acquire these funds and quickly deliver them to citizens in need.
How to start small, move fast, and be transparent
When Arkansas was allocated $63 million in funding, Robert “Ro” Arrington, director of homeownership and public finance for Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA), knew they wanted to start with a pilot that would help them test and optimize their approach.
“We needed a solution that would be easy for homeowners to use but would help us understand how effective we were being in real time. Were we engaging with the socially disadvantaged groups we were trying to reach? How long was it taking from application to funds distribution?” asked Arrington.
The neighboring state of Tennessee was also allocated funds through HAF — $168 million. The Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) wanted a pilot, too. They knew they needed a turn-key solution with detailed reporting and real-time dashboards to know how many and which applications were pending, approved, paid, or denied.
“Having the pilot was critical to test things out and ensure the reporting would help us track the outcomes of our homeowner counseling and outreach,” said Denise Hutchinson, assistant director of mortgage assistance and compliance for THDA.
Both states knew that data reporting would be key to their pilots. Due to the emergency nature of the HAF funding program, state agencies were continually in the public eye. Access to real-time reporting let them reinforce the organizational mission of their agencies while shaping public perception of how the program was progressing.
ProLink Solutions uses AWS to power states’ housing assistance programs
Both Tennessee and Arkansas looked to AWS customer ProLink Solutions to help them award funds and track impact fast. Their ProLink+ software gives state agencies a turn-key solution to begin distributing HAF dollars and includes a public-facing portal for homeowners to check eligibility, apply for financial assistance, upload supporting documents, and review approval status.
The ProLink+ software as a service (SaaS) solution is built using multiple AWS services, including Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), AWS Lambda, and Amazon Cognito. It also uses Amazon CloudFront for a secure and high-performance content delivery system to the end-user, and Amazon QuickSight as their business intelligence (BI) solution to create and embed dashboards, giving HFAs the real-time reporting they need to quickly distribute these emergency funds and keep people housed. Learn more about how ProLink Solutions uses Amazon QuickSight and other AWS services.
Successful pilots help states support citizens in need
TDHA engaged ProLink Solutions and launched a pilot in August 2021, reaching out to over 2,000 people who had expressed interest in the housing assistance program. Because ProLink+ automates so many tasks, THDA could focus on making a deeper impact. “The ultimate goal is not just to help homeowners pay off their debt. We want to make sure we are doing what we can to set these homeowners up to be successful long-term, after the program funding ends,” said Hutchinson. In Arkansas, ADFA used ProLink+ to launch their pilot in July 2021. They found that ProLink+ helped them automate and streamline administrative workflows, freeing them up to focus on more complex parts of the review processes.
Both pilots helped Arkansas and Tennessee get HAF plan approvals from the US Department of the Treasury and successfully launch their formal programs in 2022. Tennessee’s program was highlighted in the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s recent article on promising practices for HAF programs. Both states now have dedicated programs that serve homeowners with incomes less than 150% of the median income who have experienced hardship from the pandemic, including job loss, reduction of income and increased costs related to health care.
“This program has given me an opportunity to work directly with people helping them through a difficult and scary time,” said Arrington. “It’s turned out to be one of the most rewarding projects in my career.”
Learn more about how the cloud helps communities prevent and combat housing instability. Do you have questions about how AWS can help your agency provide innovative services for citizens? Reach out the AWS Public Sector team.
Read more about AWS for state and local government:
- 5 best practices to create a cloud cost allocation strategy for government customers
- Delivering better Medicaid services (and happier teams) with the AWS Cloud
- Bias for Agile action speeds digital transformation in the public sector
- How governments can use open source solutions for faster transformation and more
- Cloud security design considerations for state and local government
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