Accounting Firm

Building an App to Distribute Federal Aid During the Pandemics

A fast and flexible partnership to support the distribution of critical funds
  • Opportunity

    Enable an auditing and accounting firm to facilitate the distribution of emergency funding to those in need of federal support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Solution

    Quickly create a flexible web application that routes requests for funding through multiple stages of approval before CARES Act payments are dispersed at the state level.

  • Outcome

    The auditing and accounting firm gains a flexible platform that continues to expand to serve the needs of this crisis while retaining capabilities that can be redeployed to serve those who need it most in the next disaster.

In a crisis, timing is everything.

Specializing in facilitating assistance after disasters, an auditing and accounting firm had managed over $40 billion in federal aid. As the coronavirus pandemic crippled the U.S. economy, the CARES Act provided a lifeline through extended unemployment benefits and expense reimbursement.

States needed to disperse those funds to stem the impact of an economic disaster. The auditing and accounting firm had a history in the Southeast with crisis situations, and states contacted the firm for help distributing federal aid. The firm wanted a web application to ensure aid was routed to those who needed it most – and fast.

Complex Needs on an Emergency Timeline

Coming to COLAB shortly after the CARES Act was signed, the time-sensitive project was akin to building an airplane that was already in flight. As the pandemic raged on, states needed a way for residents to sign up for the program and apply for reimbursement.

Internally, the auditing and accounting firm needed to audit and verify the CARES Act funding requests through its accounting workflow. The firm needed a product that accommodated multiple stages of auditing and approval that could be integrated with a state’s system for funding distribution.

Designed to support the specific needs of the CARES Act, the product needed to be flexible. With the right foundation in place, the application should be able to support varying locations and circumstances as need demands. As a result, the application’s reach could extend beyond this crisis and provide support during the next one.

A Scalable and Secure System

In order to get this essential tool up and running ASAP, COLAB shifted our typical cadence and skipped strategy, design, and discovery. We went straight into production to deliver a software application in two weeks that followed the firm’s accounting workflow.

At the beginning, users submitted requests for funds (RFF) into firm’s system to start the benefits process. Once received, the firm’s team verifies that the request includes the right documentation before it’s passed on for review by an analyst. After the analyst’s approval, the request is then routed to a manager for final verification. Finally, the RFF is submitted to the state to distribute funds.

The most intricate part of the process was integrating the firm’s system with the state’s, which was typically out of date. We used a secure file transfer protocol (SFTP) to navigate multiple levels of security concerns. Trading asymmetric encryption keys resolved between the firm and our hosting platform, the state received a file that described the funds for delivery via ACH (automated clearing house).

We started by rolling out the program for use with counties and municipalities. As additional federal funding has been designated for small businesses and rent relief, the firm is extending the capabilities of its application to distribute those funds as well.

Those Facing an Unprecedented Crisis Receive a Flexible Means of Support

Much like the coronavirus pandemic, the infrastructure to collect, audit, and distribute aid requests at the state and municipal level simply didn’t exist before the CARES Act. Since this software launched, the amount of funding that has been distributed is in the billions across hundreds of communities.

Our work with COLAB has reset the bar with how we will work with agencies in the future. COLAB not only delivered, they delivered in stressful, time-sensitive programs with incredible needs. Quite simply, we wouldn’t be where we are in those programs without COLAB. Michael Dickerson Senior Manager

As the pandemic has gone on, more states have come to the firm looking to disperse funding to those in need. With a platform in place to validate and distribute funding, the firm can repurpose its software to support different aspects of relief for this crisis. Not only that, but the firm is well positioned to provide relief for the next one as well.

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