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New Mexico Adds Smarter Tech into Rental Assistance Process

The state of New Mexico built a cloud-based platform during the pandemic to support the Department of Finance and Administration’s management of grants and funds from the emergency rental assistance program.

A sign outside an apartment building that reads “Reminder!! Rent is due on the 1st.”
To better manage the disbursement of federal grants and funds from its emergency rental assistance program, the New Mexico Department of Finance Administration (DFA) deployed a system to improve the applicant experience.

Joey Baros, CIO at the agency, said the decision to build the application was made in February 2021 with the primary purpose of helping individuals get the support they need to stay in their homes in a time of crisis.

“The pandemic taught me, with this application, that we have the technology to help, we just have to hit the ground running with it sometimes in order to make it work,” he said.

The system, launched with the help of partner MTX, is built on Government Cloud Plus and is powered by the Salesforce Customer 360 customer relationship management platform.

Since its creation, over $50 million has been awarded with an additional second round of funds disbursed in October 2021.

Baros said the development process had a fast turnaround, especially since the application and business process associated with it both had to be developed from scratch.

According to Salesforce’s Senior Vice President for Digital Transformation Casey Coleman, the challenge that New Mexico faced throughout the pandemic is similar to that of many other government entities: high demand for government services despite many government workers suddenly working from home.

She underlined that the platform offered the state a digital strategy to deliver services from anywhere while allowing the agency to keep citizens informed about the steps they need to take to receive support.

“One thing that builds public trust is delivering good customer service,” said Coleman. “It’s not just technology, it’s also leadership and it’s culture and it’s change management. But having the digital platform is the foundation for being able to do this quickly.”

The process to use the new system is straightforward. First, an individual creates a user ID with their email and password from the DFA webpage, which will be stored throughout the life cycle of their application. The individual must fill out the required demographic information and answer questions before submitting their request.

After the application has been submitted, the DFA works with the Taxation and Revenue Department and the Human Services Department to ensure its validity. A case will be opened in Service Cloud, and the process is managed there from pre-audit until the funds are awarded.

The collaboration between agencies also expedites the process for applicants that have been approved for other state programs.

Developing digital platforms for New Mexico residents can be a challenge, because being a relatively rural state, high-speed Internet is not available in many areas, Baros said.

To help support the residents who didn’t have the digital skills, DFA coordinated with local nonprofit organizations, like Roadrunner Food Bank in Albuquerque, so that staff could help residents fill out applications.

Baros credits Donnie Quintana, DFA local government division director, DFA Secretary Debbie Romero and DFA Deputy Secretary Renee Ward for their leadership in developing those partnerships.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.