The City of Santa Clarita Emergency Rental Assistance Grant Program: Driven by Laserfiche
The City of Santa Clarita, California has been getting some real impact from their Laserfiche implementation over the last few years. Purchased in 2014, IT really leaned into the new Laserfiche Forms’ features, deploying over 100 total. And these implementations were not just for internal use. With an emphasis on digital service delivery, Santa Clarita was “all in” on kicking off common tasks such as check requests, council meeting speaker requests, and comment requests with the technology. All three processes proved even more valuable when the pandemic caused staff to WFH. In fact, they went from processing some checks using LF Forms to processing all checks. And with Council meetings moving online, speaker and comment forms usage increased.
When the City committed to participating in the Emergency Rental Assistance Grant Program. Management Analyst, Tracy Sullivan was charged with leading the effort. The program is funded by the State of California who received funds from the DOT. Sullivan explains, “We had a really short timeline. These grants are available for residents who are in an emergency state—essentially they are at risk of being homeless.”
She immediately put heads together with the Technology Services division. Senior IT Analyst, Ryan Drake knew this project would be well-suited to implementing another Laserfiche Form-driven workflow. Drake explained, “We briefly considered another product, but features like the conditional workflows and e-signatures made Laserfiche a better fit.” He adds, “Forms is so easy to use, but with this project, we had the opportunity to deepen our knowledge of the product. We especially appreciate the drag-and-drop feature set.”
Sullivan and Drake agreed that two of the main goals for the application were that it would be easy for the tenants to use and navigate. The form needed to be functional on desktops, laptops, and tablets but it also needed to work on smartphones because applicants may not have broadband access. Also, if the applicant needs to use a paper form, they may do so. Staff would then enter the information from the paper form into the Laserfiche Form.
All said and done, it took a little over a week from Sullivan and Drake’s first meeting to having the form live on the city website (April 1st). Twenty-nine days later, the program closed. Sullivan revealed that Santa Clarita received 845 tenant applications—a significant amount. She expounds, “we received nothing but positive feedback from the residents and staff. Staff was impressed with the seamless review workflows, where they could add notes or comment and then approve the form.”
But this was not just any simplistic form. The Rental Assistance Program required capturing a large amount of applicant information (up to 10 members of a household, all their employment details, landlord information, etc.), including supporting documentation. The final product had five sections—requiring a good deal of logic (especially if-then). IT and program staff tested the form, took feedback, and iterated.
Also, obligatory for funding, was a set of reporting including a quarterly report with demographics, and a monthly report with total counts. To ensure the integrity of the program, the vetting process was both complex and thorough, so the reporting was critical to the success of the project.
Once the tenant completed the form a workflow was launched. Workflow assigned the application an instance ID and (once the application has been accepted by staff) sent an email to the landlord. The email contains a link to another (required) form and the instance ID. The landlord could then use the instance ID to partially populate their form and–additionally, submit supporting documentation. If approved, payment would be remitted directly to the landlord, hence their involvement in the process.
At the time of this article’s publishing, the program team is in the process of determining the awards. The city is pushing to have all the grants awarded by the end of June 2021, although they have until 12/21 to complete the program.
Drake generously plans to upload sanitized versions of his forms, templates, and workflows to the Laserfiche Forms Library, so that other agencies can benefit from them.
What does the future hold for the City of Santa Clarita from a technology perspective? Drake mentions that when he is fielding staff requests for process automation, Laserfiche Forms is often the solution to their problems.