eGrants provides the complete, end to end, capabilities needed to accept and process applications for disaster recovery financial assistance grants. It is proven software used in Mississippi, Louisiana, and New Jersey that can be implemented within a month from contract award.
eGrants is a web based software product that can be hosted by the governmental agency giving out the grants or STR can hosted the software. In either case, a homeowner seeking financial assistance can go to an URL that the granting agency publishes. At the site, the homeowner registers, is given a user name and is sent an email directing the homeowner to log back into the site and select a password. Once this is done, the homeowner can then begin completing the on-application.
The on-line application is user-friendly with instructions and build-in help text to assist the applicant in completing the application. Depending on the requirements of the granting agency, the applicant has a choice of language (English and Spanish) were provided in New Jersey. The on-line application minimizes the use of free text fields, providing the applicant with choices from drop-down lists, check boxes, and radio buttons. Where free text fields are used, the on-line application uses auto-refill to complete the entry whenever possible. Before a user can leave a screen and go to the next, the on-line application verifies that all required information has been supplied. Users can save and return to the application at any time.
Once the on-line application is completed by the user, the user submits the applications and prints out a version to keep.
Validation and Verification of Data
As part of any Action Plan written by the granting agency, there are usually criteria that define eligibility for one or more disaster recovery programs. For example, the Action Plan may require that the homeowner lived in one of the impacted counties, registered with FEMA, or that the home is located inside (or outside) a flood zone. eGrants validates or verifies the eligibility of the applicant in a process that is both automated and manual, allowing eligibility advisors to review the data and make the final decision on eligibility. eGrants integrates with a data warehouse that interfaces with external data sources such as postal databases, FEMA registration databases, local real estate tax records, and title companies to collect data on each of the applicants. eGrants than creates a recommended eligibility determination, showing the specific “pass/fail” for each of the criteria. This is then provided to the eligibility advisors to make the final determination of eligibility.
eGrants also interfaces with sources of financial assistance such as FEMA, SBA, and insurance companies to collect data on each applicant that can be used in calculations of Duplication of Benefits. eGrants then validates the data provided by the applicant against records provided by these third party sources.
Calculate Award Options
Depending on the Action Plan, applicants may have several options for financial assistance. In some cases the applicant has no choice among the options if they are only eligible for a single program with the amount of the financial assistance a function of the data supplied either in the on-line application or from third party sources. In other cases the applicant may be eligible for multiple options. For example, in the Road Home program in Louisiana, the applicant could get financial assistance to repair the damaged home, sell the damaged property to the state and buy a new home in the state, or sell the home to the state and move out of Louisiana. The applicant got to choose the option after seeing the dollar amount and any restrictions or covenants associated with each option.
eGrants uses data from the on-line application, data collected from third party sources, and any special rules or exceptions to calculate the amount of the financial award for each option available to an applicant. The calculation of the award for each option accounts for any financial assistance already provided to the applicant from other governmental sources (FEMA or SBA), insurance, and, in some cases, other sources such as non-profits.
Once the award calculation is made for each option, eGrants displays the results along with supporting data and intermediary calculations for housing advisors to review and discuss with the applicant. As needed, letters are generated to send to the applicant explaining the options, award calculations for each option, and any covenants or restrictions associated with each option.
Create Funds Request
Depending on the specifics of the Action Plan, eGrants generates fund requests to be sent to the appropriate agency to request transfer of money to pay approved grants. In Louisiana, the funds requests were made to HUD to transfer money to the appropriate closing agencies who in turn dispersed money to the applicants. In New Jersey, the requests went to the Treasury Department which in turn wrote the checks and mailed them directly to the applicant.
Disburse Money to Applicant
eGrants can be configured to provide the necessary information to the appropriate agency to disburse the money to the applicant. In Louisiana, the disbursement was done by closing agencies and the applicant had to appear in person to sign the necessary covenants and agreements prior to receiving any money. eGrants prepared all of the necessary documents that were needed and sent these to the closing agencies. In New Jersey, the process was similar. Applicants were scheduled to appear at one of the housing centers set up around the state. eGrants produced all of the documents that the applicant needed to sign and sent them to the housing centers. Once signed by the applicant and checked by the housing advisors, the documents were sent to the state for signature and then check requests were generated to be sent to the Department of the Treasury. eGrants can easily be configured to work with whatever disbursement scheme is required.
Post Award Adjustments, Audits, and Closeouts
Depending on the specifics of the action plan, the applicant may be allowed to request adjustments to the award after the original disbursement of money. Some times the adjustments are requested because data becomes available. In other times the adjustments are the result of a change in policy by the agency giving out the financial assistance. eGrants is designed to allow the processing of adjustments and all of the additional requisitioning and disbursing steps that would result from approved adjustments.
As the system of record for financial assistance program, eGrants provides for on-going, incremental audits by the granting agency, state regulatory agencies, and the federal agency providing the grant money. It also provides user-friendly reports, both on-line and printed, that can be used by staff to show and explain to applicants how their awards were calculated. Data within eGrants are never deleted or destroyed and complete transaction logs are maintained to allow any auditor the ability to track every transaction that occurred with an application from the initial completion of the on-line application through final disbursement of any funds to the applicant.
eGrants supports the necessary steps that must be taken to closeout awards to individual applicants and to closeout the program ends. In Louisiana, applicants that received financial assistance to repair their homes were required by covenant to complete the repairs and re-occupy the home within three years. When applicants comply with all covenants, eGrants supports the necessary actions to close out the file for the applicant. If the applicant does not comply with covenants, then eGrants supports whatever actions the agency wants to take to recover money or to make the applicant compliant.
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