How A Simple App Helps Complete Public Assistance Requests 70% Faster

Highlights / Exec Summary:

  • San Antonio faced an overwhelming surge in rental / mortgage assistance applications during the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic in America.
  • City administrators approved a significant increase in relief funding for housing assistance reaching a total of $50 million to address the crisis.
  • Partnering with Kinetech, San Antonio deployed our composable, mobile-first, GovCloud solution in less than 12 days, handling over 3,000 applications in a single day during peak demand.
  • The city committed $16 million of the initial $25 million relief fund in the hopes of securing additional federal funding.
  • The City of San Antonio announces it has received $20 million in additional funding for its housing assistance program
  • City of San Antonio announces total relief allocation of $50 million -The ability to move quickly is what ultimately secured an additional set of funding. 
  • Emergency Program Funding Closed - Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the city has spent more than $221 million helping residents with rent, mortgage, utility, and cash assistance.
  • With Kinetech's GovTech solution, the process became fully digital, preventing residents from becoming homeless and achieving a 70% increase in processed applications.
  • San Antonio's new app, developed with Kinetech's expertise, is a "low-code" solution, streamlining the process without major programming changes.
  • The White House recognized San Antonio's innovative approach with Kinetech, and the director was called up to Washington for a showcase of the successful project.

About The City of San Antonio

Located in the heart of Texas, San Antonio is a vibrant city known for its rich cultural heritage, historic landmarks, and diverse community. As the second-largest city in the state home to nearly 1.5 million people, San Antonio has a unique blend of modern amenities and traditional charm. 

With a median age of 33.9 and a median household income of $55,084, San Antonio is a young and diverse city. Home to iconic sites such as the Alamo and the River Walk, the city attracts visitors from around the world.

The Challenge:

During the first two months of the COVID pandemic, the city of San Antonio was facing a crushing demand for public assistance applications for housing. Faced with a manual process and suddenly working from home, combined with a recently approved $50 million increase in relief funding that needed to be distributed, city administrators needed help.

Enter Edward Gonzales, assistant director of the Neighborhood and Housing Services Department for the City of San Antonio. While COVID was entirely uncharted territory for the world, for Edward, working with Kinetech to address manual processes in times of crisis, was not.

The Solution: Extending their GovTech Suite with Kinetech

Edward knew that the previous assistance application Kinetech had delivered dedicated to utilities that were created for the CivTech program in San Antonio could easily be the framework needed to extend their GovTech Suite for housing and COVID assistance. Kinetech's technology seamlessly integrated with existing systems, requiring no major database changes. The mobile-first solution streamlined the application process, eliminating hours of transcription work for phone submissions.

The App Goes into Action in Less Than Two Weeks

In under 12 days, the City of San Antonio and Kinetech were able to get a production-ready application out to city citizens. The solution is accessible via any internet-connected device (iPhone, Android, laptop, etc).


Screenshot of the City of San Antonio's new streamlined online applications

The new application brings the entire process online for rental, mortgage, utility, and relocation assistance, replacing a time-consuming manual process. Less than a day after deployment, residents initiated over 1,100 applications via the new app; during peak demand, the application handled an intake of more than 3,000 applications in a single day.

The city has already committed $16 million of the initial $25 million allocated for relief. Because the city received additional federal funding, the City of San Antonio’s Neighborhood & Housing Services Department (NHSD) will process, approve, and distribute an additional $25 million in emergency assistance via the new app, bringing the total to over 50 million dollars$50 million dollars.

“As we faced a global pandemic and the increasing volume of applications for housing assistance, we knew that there was a better way to keep up with the demand of processing applications,” said Edward Gonzales, assistant director for the City of San Antonio’s Neighborhood & Housing Services Department.

Within 12 days, the two-person development team built the new application and successfully deployed it. In less than a week, more than $2.2 million in assistance was requested. 

“With the help of Kinetech’s GovCloud, our process is now fully digital, and our caseworkers can quickly provide feedback and help prevent residents from becoming homeless,” said Gonzales.

Enabling Social Distancing and Helping Those Without Transportation

Without the app, applicants and city caseworkers would have had to put themselves at risk to submit applications in person. The manual process required caseworkers to individually contact each applicant, determine eligibility, issue the application, and then process it once the applicant returned it with supporting documentation, which often presented a challenge. 

With the app, everything, including supporting documentation, could be submitted through an internet-connected device.  In fact, the Kinetech GovCloud is device / operating system agnostic - working for web-apps, smartphones, and tablets, all within the same code base. Together this dramatically reduces the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

 

 

The new applications are easy to use on mobile phones enabling social distancing and reaching a broader swath of citizens. As of 2024, the majority of web traffic (over 50%) is now mobile. For the economically disadvantaged, a computer is a luxury, while a smartphone is a necessity.

In addition, eligible applicants fall within 125% of the federal poverty line and 80% of the average median income (AMI) and do not always have access to personal transport or printers / photocopiers to submit required documentation. The new solution addresses this by allowing applicants to submit photos using their personal devices (over secure and encrypted connections) eliminating the cost of printing supporting documentation (utility bills, lease agreements, government IDs, etc) using the device’s built-in camera.

“Everything we have done with low-code solutions has delivered on the promise. As opportunities for digital platforms arise, we lean toward the low-code platforms. Part of it is planning for the workforce of the future – we need to pivot the tools we use to make ourselves relevant for new generations of developers and the tools and delivery methods they understand.”

- Kevin Goodwin, CTO - City of San Antonio.

The Easiest Way to Modernize Your Process and Decrease Your Departments Workload

With a full solution possible in a matter of weeks, organizations may quickly implement a low-code app solution that is easy to use, improves personalized service, and nearly doubles throughput. San Antonio saw a 70% increase in applications processed in the months after implementing theirs.

This approach provides several other key benefits:

  • Digital allows email notifications or text (SMS) to be sent throughout the submission and review process for better customer service, which also helps reduce incoming call volume
  • Multi-lingual (English, Spanish, and More) are available to help diverse populations apply for service in their native language thereby communicating more effectively with your department
  • Standardized reporting is compliant with federal mandates and makes data easier to compile
  • Compliance with grant funding requirements (CARES Act, CBDG, LiHEAP, etc.) is easier to verify and enforce and eligibility can be checked as applicants submit are submitting information
  • Does not require you to hire any additional support staff and reduces the workload on existing staff by up to 70%
  • Improves public relations by getting the applications in people’s hands faster and making them easy to process
  • Quickly digitize digitizes your process (away from paper) for the 21st century

Try the App

If you want to try this application out, Kinetech is offering a free license to public administrators right now. You can also contact us here or read our guide on three simple ways to speed up application processing.

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