CARES Act: Insights & Best Practices

Neighborly Software currently has over 50 clients which have implemented new programs in response to COVID-19. The following is a list of best practices and insights to consider as you develop your CARES Act programs. Neighborly Software can assist you in helping streamline your process while providing a timely and effective response to your community’s needs. Please reach out to Marty Greenlee should you have any questions or wish to see a demo of the modules (martin.greenlee@neighborlysoftware.com).

CARES Act Top 10 Insights and Best Practices

1. Community Needs. Neighborly Software has seen a tremendous spike in the implementation of our Microenterprise and Mortgage/Rental Assistance programs (40+ jurisdictions). These two programs address the two most pressing needs in communities, keeping small businesses viable and providing shelter for vulnerable populations. These programs are often implemented together as a holistic strategy for CARES Act funding.

2. Application Window. Approving applications on a first come-first served basis incentivizes poor behavior. It creates an unhealthy dynamic were applicants are mindlessly racing through the application, often providing incomplete or inaccurate information in order to finish quickly. Where possible, a better approach is to provide an open application window (e.g. 5 days) that uses one of the selection methods below.

3. Selection Criteria. If you are able to employ an open application window, you must document in advance a “fair” approach for applicant selection. We recommend one of the two approaches below:

i. Preference. Rank applicants at the end of the application window based on multiple preference criteria (e.g. elderly, disabled, extremely low income)

ii. Lottery. Selects applicants at the end of the application window based on a randomly generated number list that corresponds to Case IDs.

4. Eligibility Criteria. The first page of the application should be simple Yes or No program eligibility questions. This accomplishes two objectives: it reduces the number of ineligible applications submitted and it reduces the frustration of applicants who spend time submitting sensitive information for a program only to find they don’t qualify.

5. Keep it Simple. Most applicants will be applying from home with limited access to office equipment (e.g. document scanners). The application must be simple, require minimal documentation and absolutely no notary requirements. Our best practice applications for both Microenterprise and Rental/Mortgage assistance are included in the link at the bottom of the page.

6. Follow Up Expectations. An applicants’ biggest fear is not knowing what happens after they click the “submit” button. They want to know when and how they will be communicated with following the submission of their application. Neighborly Software recommends a pop-up window following the submission of an application that clearly outlines the time (e.g. “Within 5 business days”) and the communication medium (e.g. email or phone call) that the applicant should expect.

7. Review and Qualification. Accepting applications is the easy part, especially if you are using Neighborly Software. The challenging part is processing hundreds (or thousands) of applications in a short period of time. It is important to “clear the calendar” for staff in order to immediately start processing applications once they are submitted. It is also a good idea to coordinate early with the finance team that will be “cutting the checks.”

8. Compliance. Do not sacrifice compliance for speed. Peer reviews and multi-step draw approval processes should be included for all approved applications. The CARES Act funds will be audited!

9. Program Income. Revolving loans are the gift that keeps on giving. It enables your limited CARES Act funding to be recycled multiple times back into your business community. As such, several of our clients are providing no interest, 6 month deferred loans as part of their Microenterprise program.

10. Highlight Results. It’s election season and many community leaders want to quickly show the results of the CARES Act funding. The most effective way to visually show results is to plot beneficiaries on a city/county wide map, including segmentation by district and demographics (elderly, disabled, LMI, etc.).

Click here to download Neighborly Software's best practice applications for Microenterprise and Rent/Mortgage Assistance.