Enabling widespread economic relief through rapid solution implementation

Delivering a secure, user-friendly application to get CARES assistance into the hands of qualified recipients that need it—fast—requires an architectural and developmental approach that prioritizes scalable and reusable logic.

In response to COVID-19, Congress enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (CARES 2), and the American Rescue Plan to provide fast and direct economic assistance for families, workers, and small businesses, as well as preserve jobs for American industries.

The federal and state agencies responsible for disbursing the billions of dollars in assistance faced intense time pressure and public attention. Yet many simply lacked the technical infrastructure to distribute the funds in a streamlined, timely, and data-driven way. Less than a week after the relief legislation passed, one cabinet agency turned to ICF to help.

Within five days, we implemented an application that enabled the allocation of $25 billion in grants and loans to eligible recipients in urgent need.

Our application helped more than 600 recipients, resulting in over 1,600 transactions that saved over half a million jobs.

We delivered program infrastructure including application intake, verification, and approval workflows, agreements generator, payment processing, and reconciliation to process over $200 billion in funding.

Challenge

The CARES Act was designed to provide urgent economic relief—which meant that implementation required immediate action. With time as the critical challenge, the agency required a solution that could be built within five days. In addition, any app needed to uphold the strictest security standards. As a public-facing program, the application also needed to include enhanced design for a seamless user experience.

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Solution

Our team leveraged an Agile sprint model and prioritized scalable and reusable logic. Within five days we launched the initial application—the first created under the CARES Act—and subsequently released three additional applications in the first few weeks. The delivered program infrastructure included application intake, verification, and approval workflows, agreements generator, payment processing, and reconciliation to process over $200 billion in funding.

In order to execute so quickly, we enhanced pre-existing components, building them into Salesforce. By starting with Salesforce and its ecosystem of products, we were able to rapidly build and integrate an application into the agency’s existing technology infrastructure.

The time we saved through low-code and Agile was refocused on the agency’s high priorities, such as creating safe and secure data accessibility, implementing governance, enhancing user-centered design, and optimizing the citizen experience.

With IT governance in place, we continued to create improvements to the CARES infrastructure and program processes, completing hundreds of deployments over the next year. These enhancements were designed with flexibility in mind to adjust to real-time changes and evolving needs throughout the pandemic.

Results

Grants management is a complex process with many potential pitfalls that can result in delayed funding for the people and communities that need it the most, enhanced scrutiny, and increased chances of reputational harm and media attention if funds and grants are mismanaged.

Leveraging existing solution accelerators, we provided the expertise to quickly solution and build a seamless application to navigate every segment of the complex grants management lifecycle process. We delivered a scalable, flexible program to get CARES assistance into the hands of qualified recipients that needed it, fast.

Our initial application enabled the secure allocation of $25 billion in grants and loans to 600+ recipients, saving over half a million jobs. Since then, our effort with the agency has expanded to cover 12 financial assistance programs—disbursing over $500 billion to date under the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan. In addition to these services, we provided analysis and reporting for stakeholders to best understand the impact of relief distribution during a critical time.

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