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Hamilton County uses Google Cloud to speed up their rent assistance and relief

Hamilton County Job and Family Services built and deployed a solution that helps them provide rent assistance and relief faster than ever.

Google Cloud results

  • Increased weekly service delivery capacity by about 37%
  • Reduced application processing time by about 40%
  • Created a transformation model that could help struggling agencies nationwide

Weekly service delivery capacity increased by 37%

Hamilton County Job and Family Services has always been steady and reliable in providing rent assistance and relief, but with the rise in claims due to shutdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, they needed to make major improvements in speed.

“We’ve been struggling to meet the needs of our community, to be timely and available to an expanding customer base, and to maintain full compliance with evolving federal reporting requirements and compliance guidance. The challenge for us has been to simultaneously remain good stewards of public dollars, and to react with unusual speed to move dollars and meet customers where they are,” says Kevin Holt, Assistant Director of Hamilton County Job and Family Services.

The agency had built up a backlog of 440 unprocessed applications from people who needed their services. Plus, they were facing a deadline that would require them to increase their weekly assistance delivery by about 67% in order to avoid rescission of funds.

Their in-house team had developed systems that were capable of supporting delivery of about $300,000 in assistance each week. But the agency needed to start delivering something closer to $500,000 in assistance each week through the end of September. Failing to deliver at least 65% of the federally allocated funds would result in the remaining funds being rescinded—and further, limit their ability to deliver crucial rent assistance and relief to their community in need.

They realized that they wouldn’t be able to pick up their pace with their existing systems and tools, so they turned to Google Cloud to gain the capabilities they needed.

We got premium service at every step of the way. So we were moving from this problem to this problem to this problem, and at each step we didn't wait weeks.
—Kevin Holt, Assistant Director, Hamilton County Job and Family Services

Fast solution deployment

Hamilton County Job and Family Services needed to deploy their solution quickly, given the urgency around providing rent assistance and relief at a faster pace than ever. With help from the Google Cloud team, they deployed App Engine, Cloud SQL, and Cloud Storage to build and store data for the app and Contact Center AI to get the virtual web agents deployed.

“We got premium service at every step of the way,” says Holt. “So we were moving from this problem to this problem to this problem, and at each step we didn't wait weeks.”

Holt explained that procurement was their biggest initial challenge. After getting past that, building their new system was just a matter of using the Google Cloud team’s technical expertise to bring his agency’s expansive vision to life. The result is a solution that’s designed to provide the speed they need, and in the longer term be able to change its logic to adapt to different programs, eligibility requirements, or other new information.

Shorter application processing times

After just a few weeks, the agency was already saving a lot of time. With their previous solution, processing an application took about 14 minutes. With their Google Cloud solution, the agency can process an application in about nine minutes. Now, Holt is confident that his agency will be able to reach their goals.

“We believe it’s going to get us there,” Holt says. “The timelines are getting shorter...and it’s moved us up to that next level. So it’s better for us operationally.”

The agency is now making quick work of their backlog of unprocessed applications.

More reliability and improved employee morale

Their previous system had a reliability problem that hurt the agency’s efficiency. Holt says that “stability of our ERAP operating system is among our highest priorities. We needed an option to avoid system freezes, crashes, and restarts. Output management and staff morale depended on that system evolution. This system provided that solution.”

Holt says the agency left those problems behind when they deployed their new solution.
Our mission is to transform government and healthcare through the power of AI. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing that mission applied to help the people around us. Through this partnership with Google and Hamilton County JFS, we are leveraging AI to ensure that government aid is delivered to those who need it. This application ensures Hamilton County can deliver thousands of proper payments, ensuring people are kept safe and in their homes.
—Ted Battreall, CEO, BlueVector

Easier experiences for everyone

According to Holt, the new system and workflow are extremely easy for staff members to learn. New employees are able to learn and start using the new system within one day, which is “very unusual in our experience of system rollouts,” says Holt.

Holt says the new system also provides a better experience for the people who use his agency’s services. To request funding, citizens can simply create a profile on the system and fill out the required information. The agency then checks in real time to ensure they’ve filled out all the necessary fields, performs a quick validation of eligibility criteria, and then sends them a confirmation that the request was received.

“Customers are having an easier time using it than they did with our prior system,” says Holt. “So we were doing well [before], and [now] we’re doing better.”

A blueprint for other struggling agencies

Moving to Google Cloud has helped Hamilton County Job and Family Services rise to the challenge of growing and persistent demand. Now, they’re providing rent assistance and relief faster than ever and tackling their backlog. "It is a pleasure working with the team at Hamilton County JFS. The entire team is dedicated to improving the lives of the individuals struggling in their community. Overall we [helped] streamlined the[ir] ERAP process with BlueVector’s cloud-hosted application, reduced call center stress with CCAI, and provided quality Google Cloud infrastructure,” said Ethan Goldbeck, Solution Architect at BlueVector.

But Holt also hopes his agency’s success will serve as a model that could help other struggling agencies make similar transformations, as well as provide a statewide solution for adopting the upcoming American Rescue Plan and infrastructure expansion. Having talked to people from agencies in other communities in Ohio and in other parts of the country, Holt sees how using Google Cloud can help them “out of challenges that are often more intimidating than our original starting place.”

“Our folks invested time, energy, expertise, and dollars into this as an investment that others should be able to benefit from,” Holt says. “Other communities should be able to leverage our efforts to get drastically better outcomes for their constituents pretty quickly.”
Google is a trusted technology partner who understands how to help agencies transition from legacy architectures and utilize their data to fuel true mission success. Google Cloud Platform provides cloud-native infrastructure with layered security, machine learning and analytics at web-scale to rapidly innovate and advance agency goals.