Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in the spring, local governments all over the country have been working tirelessly to find ways to remain open while the doors to City Hall are shut. In many cases, this has meant adapting and innovating with new technologies in order to provide vital services to residents, remotely.

Last week, we hosted a panel discussion in partnership with Oracle to shine a light on how the City of Los Angeles has done just that. When the COVID-19 crisis prompted rapid shutdowns of government services, city leaders knew that they needed to get money into the hands of people whose livelihoods had been affected by a stalled economy. Through public-private partnerships with Oracle, MasterCard, and the nonprofit Accelerator for America, they were able to stand up a brand new program to provide direct financial assistance in the form of pre-paid, no-fee debit cards to city residents in a matter of weeks.

To hear more about this local success story, watch the panel recording or read the transcript below.

Transcript

Ryan Ko:

Okay, we are three minutes past the hour. Hello and welcome everybody. My name is Ryan Ko. I'm the Chief of Staff at Code for America, and welcome to our virtual Summit series event today. Rapid pandemic response, governments rising to help those who need it the most, and a big thanks to our sponsor Oracle.

Ryan Ko:

Okay, so, before we go ahead and jump in and introduce our panelists and just a quick response as I've seen this question come in a couple of times already, this session will be recorded, yes, and released on our YouTube channel. Couple of housekeeping notes, just thank you everybody for being here, we're really excited for this conversation. Our Code for America code of conduct applies to all of our gatherings and you can find it at the bit.ly here, bit.ly/CFAcodeofconduct. If you would like to or if you'd like to report any violations or just contact with a question, feel free to chat the hosts, the panelists here, or free to contact safespace@codeofamerica.org, which is a confidential email box accessible by Code of America staff helping on this call.

Ryan Ko:

You will also see the code of conduct link dropped in the chat below. We do want this to be a very lively conversation. So, please feel free to submit questions for the panelists. I've seen some questions coming through the chat, it actually helps if they come through the separate Q&A button which is, if I'm remembering this correctly, on the panel two buttons to the left of the chat button, or one button I think. So, if you go to the Q&A, that's going to help us kind of filter, sort, group questions and kind of make sure to highlight the most frequently asked questions for discussion, and we'll answer as many as we can during this conversation, and in followup materials via email, on YouTube, et cetera.

Ryan Ko:

Please definitely share your thoughts and tips on social media, just on how to work, how this conversation is going, please do tag Code of America, and/or use the #CFASummit hashtag. Without further ado, this conversation is brought to us by our partner Oracle. For more than 40 years Oracle has helped public sector organizations around the world securely manage data, solve business challenges, and connect citizens and employees. Specifically, Oracle Cloud services enable agencies to redefine innovation with enterprise ready technology solutions, integrated services that allow organizations to build, deploy, and manage their businesses seamlessly in the Cloud or on premises. Oracle software and solutions help government agencies seed data in new ways, discover insights, and prepare for rapid change and growth. A big thank you to our partner Oracle.

Ryan Ko:

With that, I'd like to jump in and introduce our panelists. So, as we do this, let's go one by one and I'd invite Mary, Abby, and Bob to introduce themselves. Show up on the video and let's do name, role, and then the icebreaker question which would be your favorite government agency, only rule being it shouldn't be the one that you work at and one things perhaps you hope the audience takes away from today's conversation. Over to you Mary.

Mary Hodge:

Hi everybody. My name's Mary Hodge I'm the Deputy Chief of Staff to the mayor of Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti. My favorite agency that I do not work at is the Zoo, that would be amazing to hang out with elephants and all the other stuff all day. The one thing I hope that everybody takes away from this is that government can do big things. That the bad rap that government and local government just is too slow and can't react fast is completely false and especially with great partners that we can do really great things very quickly.

Ryan Ko:

Thank you Mary, it's great to have you with us. Over to Abby.

Abigail Marquez:

Thank you Ryan. Hi everyone. Abigail Marquez, Abby Marquez, and I'm the assistant general manager with the Housing and Community Investment Department. I have been with the city now for a little over 16 years, but outside of my own department, the department that I am connected to is the Department of Recreation and Parks. As a mom of two daughters who love being on the soccer field, I have to say that is a department that I respect greatly for all the good work that they do across the city. Let's see, what I would add would be, similar to what Mary shared, it is important to recognize that although we work within a large bureaucracy, we can be very nimble and there are a lot of employees who care deeply about the communities we serve and we want to be responsive to the needs of our community. So, that's what I would add.

Ryan Ko:

Excellent, thank you Abby. Bob.

Bob Nevins:

Thanks Ryan. Yeah, I'm Bob Nevins and I'm the Director of Health and Human Services Strategy here at Oracle Public Sector, actually oversee state and local strategy as a whole. Really happy to be part of this. I guess the favorite agency of mine and I worked in this agency in my early part of my career is the Child Welfare Agency. They really do God's work. It's an underappreciated role for a social worker at a Child Welfare Agency, yet the work they do is really fantastic and for the most vulnerable amongst our population. In terms of what I'd like folks to take away, I actually have two things Ryan if I don't break the rules here.

Bob Nevins:

One is, I hope that we stimulate some ideas and some direction for folks that are on the Webinar today through our conversations. I also hope that people realize that Webinars can be fun. So, those are the two takeaways that I would hope people have in this Webinar.

Ryan Ko:

Thank you Bob, and as I mentioned earlier, my name is Ryan Ko. I am the Chief of Staff at Code of America. My, let's see here, my favorite government agency is the National Park Service and the Associated State Parks as well. One thing that I hope everybody can take away from this conversation is just some really exciting tactical tips on how to make this public-private partnerships work across government and technology, something I'm personally very passionate about both in and out of work.

Ryan Ko:

Okay, and with that, let's see, I think before we jump into a presentation, we did think it would be kind of fun to quickly poll our audience, just to help us as panelists and myself as the moderator to kind of get a sense for who we have participating today. So, I'm going to release three poll questions in just a second, they're really quick just kind of multiple choice questions. The first is what part of our ecosystem do you represent, whether that's public sector, or government, or non-profit, or academia, or private sector, vendor, or something else. The second question is what best describes the level of government you work with, that could be federal, state, or local, that's counties, cities, et cetera. The third is what geographic region do you represent, and I will just note that I'm using the U.S. Census Bureau regions here, although the federal government has lots and lots of different ways of classifying regions.

Ryan Ko:

So, if you're not sure what region you're in, just please take your best guess and we'll go for that. Okay, looks like we've got a good mix across federal, state, and local and a really even split across public servants, non-profit academia, and private sector and vendor. In terms of geographical representation, it looks like we're pretty weighted towards the west coast with good representation from the northeast, Midwest, and south as well.

Ryan Ko:

Let's see, this poll's been open for about a minute now, so I'll give it another 10 or 15 seconds and close, show results, and move on. I would just note and comment that it's always obviously fun to have this in person and I do wish I were in person with our amazing panelists here as well as our audience because then we could do this show of hands, standing up, sitting down, that kind of thing, and to Bob's point, this is virtual but we will make sure this Webinar is engaging and make sure to have our audience get the takeaways that they're looking for.

Ryan Ko:

Excellent. So with that, I'm going to hand it over to Mary and Abby for a quick presentation on the city of Los Angeles Angeleno Card.

Abigail Marquez:

Wonderful. Thank you Ryan, I'm going to get us started, but before I do that, I just want to say that we appreciate very much to have been invited to this presentation and we're excited to share the work that we did in partnership with Oracle and many other partners to launch the Angeleno Card program. I also want to just acknowledge my colleague who you'll hear from later, Mary Hodge, who was instrumental along with her team in helping with both the design and implementation of this program.

Abigail Marquez:

I mentioned that I have been working for the city of Los Angeles for a little over 16 years now, and I've never had the honor of working, to have worked on the implementation of a program the created such a profound impact in the lives of so many families that were served and benefited from this program. Obviously we are in unprecedented times and no one ever imagined that we would be in a pandemic and that we would need to really stand up a program that would provide direct cash assistance to households who are severely impacted by COVID-19.

Abigail Marquez:

So, I'll go onto the next slide. I'll talk a little bit about the vision of the Angeleno Card that we really have to give credit to Mayor Eric Garcetti. This was his vision and he activated both his city departments and his staff and every network that he can tap to stand up a program that would provide direct financial assistance to individuals and families in our city who are facing extreme financial hardship prior to the pandemic and because of the pandemic were in deeper financial distress. So, that is what we did and we worked very closely with the Mayor's Fund for Los Angeles, the mayor's wife, the first lady of Los Angeles was very much involved in the design as well and created a program, again, that was able to level our infrastructure of community partners who had boots on the ground, who were on the front line working with families who directly benefited from this program.

Abigail Marquez:

Next slide. We were really trying to focus on very simple criteria. We didn't want to create any additional challenges or hurdles for individuals who would benefit from this from accessing the benefit. So, we again looked at households who were already living in poverty prior to COVID-19 and who were experiencing deeper financial stress. We looked at a variety of different essential workers in our city and in our economy, so we looked at hourly workers, people who were working at restaurants, seasonal workers, and we also looked at our workers who were relying heavily on the cash economy. So, we didn't want to exclude anyone from being able to benefit from this program. So, we made it accessible to day laborers and street vendors and also individuals who were waiting on their unemployment insurance benefits to kick in.

Abigail Marquez:

So, we were, again, we were trying to be very flexible to be able to cast a wide net on the number of individuals who will in the end benefited from the program. Next slide. Our response, again, I believe it's still factual today, we were the first city to stand up such a program and to this day have been able to offer the largest emergency cash assistance program in the country. We've been fortunate to be able to advise and provide some of our feedback to other cities across the country, but the response was nothing short of just extremely overwhelming in a great way, in a great way that people were in need of this program, but also in a way that really just showcased the need that was out there, not just in our city but across the country.

Abigail Marquez:

When we created an online portal and we were also supporting individuals who needed assistance over the phone with our application, but in a period of three short days, we received over 450,000 applications, both online and over the telephone, and we didn't do a lot of social media. The mayor has been remarkable in providing, at the time, daily updates through his media briefings and we used his daily briefing to announce the Angeleno Card Program, and then it went viral. It was picked up by every media outlet across the city, across the state. We received interested from individuals across the state of California, across the country, certainly from individuals outside of our city.

Abigail Marquez:

Our county represents 88 cities, so we had interest from across the county of L.A.. We then looked at the individuals who qualified. So we did limit the program to individuals who lived in the city of Los Angeles and we pre-qualified a list of approximately 164,000 applicants who were then eligible for the program. Then we then went further and looked at duplicate entries or individuals who are in the same household, we needed to narrow down the pool of applicants, and we ended up with a list of 120 eligible applicants that were, again, potentially eligible for the program. At the time, when the mayor announced the creation of the Angeleno Card Program, he had secured a pretty significant amount of private funding, I believe at that time it was between five and we were very hopeful and optimistic that we would get to 10 million dollars, that we would be able to issue to households who applied.

Abigail Marquez:

Already having a list of 120,000 eligible applications was a much larger list, the demand was much larger. Again, we were able to provide multiple access points for people to apply online and over the telephone, and through a relationship that Mary was able to bring in, we also had a call center that we contracted with that at one point activated between 70 and 75 operators to be able to provide over the phone assistance to individuals interested in applying for the program.

Abigail Marquez:

Next slide. So we talked a little bit about the criteria that we established for the program. Again, we were focusing on individuals who were laid off because of the pandemic and we didn't exclude anyone who qualified for unemployment insurance, but we did want to provide an immediate response, we know that a lot of government systems were standing up programs and there were some delays and back logs, so we wanted to provide some direct cash support, and we were also looking at individuals who had experienced severe reduction of hours or workload. So, one thing that is important to note is that we didn't ask anything related to immigration status. That was just not even a question. So, we were very clear that we didn't want to preclude anyone who may or may not have been undocumented or were ... We didn't ask that question. We wanted to make the program universal and accessible to anyone in the city who met the criteria.

Abigail Marquez:

Next slide. Again, we talked about this. We looked at city of L.A. residents. What we did is we, I talked a little bit about our network. We have a network of family source centers that we activated, and these are centers that are supported by the Housing and Community Investment Department. They are community partners that by design are already situated in the areas of the city with the highest concentrations of poverty. This is what they do, they serve low income households, they connect them to employment opportunities, they provide case management services. So, we activated our network of non-profit partners to assist with the verification process, to determine who was impact eligible.

Abigail Marquez:

We did ask individuals who were selected to receive the Angeleno Card to schedule an appointment, we scheduled appointments for them at one of our 16 non-profit partner agencies, and they were asked to bring in documentation to verify that they were in fact city of L.A. residents. They were asked to bring in either a driver's license or a utility bill that established city residency. We asked for them to bring copies of their 2018 or 2019 tax return to look at their wages to determine if they met the criteria based on the poverty household size or their W2 or paycheck stub. We also asked for either the name of their employer who had reduced their hours. We looked at a layoff letter or if they were waiting for un-insurance benefits. So, those types of documentation is what we collected to be able to determine eligibility.

Abigail Marquez:

I just really want to acknowledge the role of our non-profit partners who helped us with, again, with their experience in serving Angeleno's who for a variety of different reasons are seeking services from the city. So, I'll turn it over, next slide, I'll turn it over to Mary to walk us through the remainder of the presentation.

Mary Hodge:

Great, thank you Abby. Yeah, without Abby this whole program would not have been able to happen because of the awesome network that HCID has with all of our non-profits, and basically Abby and her team built this whole plan from the beginning when the mayor decided he wanted to be able to give direct cash assistance. So, from all of the money that he was able to raise through the Mayor's Fund, we were able to give out Angeleno Cards ranging in the amount of 700 to about 1500 dollars per household, and that was based on how many people lived in their household, and also if they had previously received some other financial assistance that we were able to give out.

Mary Hodge:

Next slide. So, as you saw from Abby, the need and the applications were great. The fact that we had 450,000 applications, I think we all pretty quickly realized we needed to build something to be able to handle all of these applicants. It wasn't just going to be something that we could all handle off of Google Spreadsheets or even some kind of internal database. So, that's when we reached out to Oracle, we reached out to a couple other partners I'll go through at the end of my slides, to kind of build this network is what we put together to be able to have the Angeleno Card process.

Mary Hodge:

So, this was the actual flow chart, I don't know if you can scroll down just a little bit because it's cutting off a little bit, but this is the flow chart of how it all works. People received an email ... So, once we got through the application process and we said that you were going to be one of the people that we had selected and we did a random selection, so once they were selected through the Oracle system, we were able to send them an email and they were able to walk through a portal, which helped them walk through in three different steps all of the different forms that they were going to have to be able to bring with them.

Mary Hodge:

So we did that very intentionally because we didn't want folks to show up to their appointment and not know what they were supposed to bring, since some of these things are things they really need to go and find. So, once they walked through the portal which Oracle built, then they were able to actually select their own appointment themselves, what day, what location in the city of Los Angeles. L.A. is really big, so to be able to have to force people to go across town was not something we wanted to have them do, so they were able to select from a network of over 20 different non-profit sites for them to be able to select their own appointment.

Mary Hodge:

Next, when they showed up, the site coordinators used Oracle to print a daily schedule and help them figure out what the day was going to look like with how many appointments and how many people they were going to be seeing. Then when an applicant showed up, a greeter verified who they were using the daily schedule from Oracle and if they had all of their documents they sent them to an eligibility station for them to be able to work with one of the non-profit staffers on verifying their documents. After that, they were at the verification system, step four, they looked through their documents, they talked with them, they used the Oracle system to actually log in what they brought, how they were eligible, so we could capture all of that information, and if they were eligible, they were then sent to another station which is step five, which was for them to actually receive the Angeleno Card.

Mary Hodge:

At the Angeleno Card station, the applicant signed a document to acknowledge they were going to receive the card, they gave us a little bit more information about how to get in touch with them. We entered in the actual card, on the card there were unique identifiers that we put into Oracle so we could capture what person goes to what card. Step six, the applicant left with the Angeleno Card. Step seven, every night our awesome team stayed up for several hours verifying, not only taking from all the FFCs, there are over 20 of them, taking all of that information, pulling the people who were eligible, pulling their card information, sending that into our card vendor so that those cards could get activated and money being put on them, and at the same time, also deduping and just making sure that all of the non-profit organizations were filling things in correctly, finding any things that were anomalies and trying to fix them so that we weren't going to deal with hundreds of anomalies at the end, we wanted to deal with them daily.

Mary Hodge:

So, we had a really great team who because of the Oracle system, we were able to download and run reports nightly that helped us be able to not have a whole backlog at the end. The last step was that we, like I said, step eight, is we loaded the Angeleno Card and it was activated within 24 hours, and we told the applicants when we handed it to them that this would be activated within 24 hours, so they needed to wait, and then they were on their merry way being able to use the card.

Mary Hodge:

So, next slide. So, overall in eight weeks from when we started this, I would say we started applications about the beginning of April, we had the application process, we reached out to Oracle, we built the system within two weeks, which was crazy, but it was awesome due to everybody's support and help, and then we implemented, and that went all the way through the end of June. So, from about April to June 30th is when this all happened. We distributed 37,841 cards. We served about 120,000 people, and we gave out over 36 million, I actually think this is 37 million now just because we had to in the middle of all this account for COVID and people who could not show up to the non-profits to verify their documents. So, we ended up towards the end coming up with our own way of verifying over the phone and doing FaceTime or WhatsApp or Zoom so that we could verify documents over the phone. So, we got ourselves to the 37 million mark.

Mary Hodge:

Next slide. I will point out from the last slide, Abby said the mayor had initially raised between five and 10 million dollars, and we were all super excited just to be able to even give that out, but what happened as we were giving out the money, the mayor was announcing it nightly on his nightly briefings telling people, "We gave out another million. We gave out this. Like it's great, we're moving so fast." Which was so amazing not only for our non-profit partners to have that validation, but it ended up having more people started giving more money to the Mayor's Fund because they were seeing that if they were putting their money into the Mayor's Fund, into the COVID-19 fund, it was going directly out to real people right away. So, that was really great and that basically ballooned from 10 million to getting about 37 million dollars from small donors, also big donors.

Mary Hodge:

So, we would have big donors like the head of Snap giving us several million dollars to people just going on themselves and giving us 50, 100, 25 dollars because they knew that it was directly going to somebody right away, and that we were not just going to hold onto this money, it was getting out to people. These are just our demographics just so we can show who we reached. About 63% of the folks that got the card were female. Next slide, and then we also do other genders as well. Going along with Los Angeles' makeup, about 43% of those who received the card were Hispanic-Latino. 27% were white. 15% were black, and so on. So, we were pretty proud of the way this kind of went across all different races.

Mary Hodge:

Next slide. Income level. This was really important to us to make sure that people who really needed the card got the card and the results speak for themselves that the highest amount of folks that got the card, 59% of them were folks who had 0-12,490 income level, which was fantastic. So, we were really happy to see that what we had planned to do and our outreach really did result, and the verification of documents really did result in the folks who needed the card getting it the most.

Mary Hodge:

Next slide. These are all our partnerships, and this came together I mean honestly within the span of a weekend and a couple of days when we realized we needed more help to get this done and it needed more technology. When Abby's team put this together and this whole idea, it was amazing. They had the infrastructure of the non-profits, the infrastructure of who to reach out to, they'd already done the application, like this thing was already flying. We were calling this, the plane was already in the air, we were like, "Okay, we need to build more pieces to it."

Mary Hodge:

So, when we realized that we had 450,000 people that we needed to know who you were at any given place and what stage you were in, again, like I said, we couldn't just use spreadsheets, so we ... Accelerator for America is another group that the mayor is in charge of, along with the Mayor's Fund, got us all in touch, put us all together basically with Oracle, with MasterCard, with Prepay technologies, Stones' Phones is a vendor that did all of the calls because not everybody could just get an email. Time Trade was a really important piece to this which allowed us to be able to let people make their own scheduling across, you know, 50,000 people all scheduling at the same time is not something that we can just have a person doing over the phone with them, we really needed live time for everybody to be able to schedule themselves.

Mary Hodge:

So, this great group of partnerships that literally came together over weekends and contracts late night and trying to push things through the best we could was how we were able to do this. That's the Angeleno Card.

Ryan Ko:

Thank you Abby and Mary for sharing all of that. It's just incredibly illuminating to hear the public servants kind of view from the city as well as we'll hear a little bit from Bob in a second. Oops, as well. Before going there though, I just wanted to make a quick comment which is I thought it was just incredibly interesting. So, Code for America has these principles, right? Building equitable systems, putting people first, empowering public servants for action, informing with evidence and kind of improving continuously, and just the speed of the execution and the collaboration between the different partners as well as all the considerations of making sure that residents didn't have to drive across town, that it was really easy for them.

Ryan Ko:

Also, one of the things that I wanted to highlight that the Oracle system did was actually make it easy for the public servants working in the city government to administer this in an easier way to Google Sheets. So, just wanted to hold up this example as something that I think really, frankly, hits many of Code for America's principles as well. Before going to Bob, there was a couple of things that were coming up for me. You've probably seen lots of technology projects in human services and social services over the years. What was really the special sauce for this one that made it so successful? Maybe this is for Abby or Mary.

Abigail Marquez:

Yes thank you, thank you Ryan. I was also trying to answer one of the questions in the chat. I appreciate the question and I appreciate the comment about the principles, and I do think it's directly aligned with the principles. What I would add and what I should have also added in my introduction is that this is an example of a public-private partnership that came to life because there was so many partners that were willing to come to the table to work with government to address a huge challenge that we all were sort of seeing on the ground, were hearing about, and one we had an opportunity to directly respond to.

Abigail Marquez:

So, this was an example of there was the public will and there was the will of the mayor and we have an incredible leader in our city who was quickly able to activate a wide network of different partners to help us address this challenge. So, to me, that is an example of when we work effectively across the table with the private sector, with other thought partners, we can do great things, and this is an example of that.

Mary Hodge:

I would just add, it was also a great example of this was built from the ground up, not from us at the top down. So, the non-profits and Abby's team really came up with how they were going to process people first. It was all on paper and on Google Sheets, and it was great. They built in what was the fastest way for them to process people when they came in, what was the safest way for them to process people, what questions did they need to ask, what did we actually need to fill out versus a whole bunch of other nonsense we didn't need to ask.

Mary Hodge:

Because they had built all of that on paper first, when we went to Oracle, we already had what we wanted the database to look like, and it took a little bit, Oracle and us talking of we didn't want this very wonky database that was like had to go into many different things to pull down this menu and click this, we wanted the database to look like the one sheet of paper that the process person was using, and they were great. They took the process form and they made the database look like the process form.

Mary Hodge:

So, when we went back to the non-profits to the staffers that were the ones doing this process in the first place. The database looked exactly like the paper they were already using. So, this made the training, you know, it took a day to train all of them instead of like three weeks on how to use a brand new technology, which definitely could be very daunting. That was, I think, a lot to our team for really insisting that we wanted something that was super easy and natural to use, and Oracle's flexibility and being able to build something that looked like something that we were already using.

Ryan Ko:

Thank you both, and just keeping an eye on time, let's move over to Bob and then we'll do some more Q&A after as well.

Bob Nevins:

Sure, do you want to go on to our slides Ryan? Terrific. Well there's really not much more I can say about the Mayor's Fund project Mary and Abby haven't already gone over. It was really the perfect marriage of dedicated, driven, innovated leaders and staff with the technology that could make this work. So, and it was a platform that we used using a number of different places and configure so that it could meet that needs that LA had.

Bob Nevins:

Can you go onto the next slide Ryan. The interesting thing with the way that we operate is that we have solutions, software solutions, that aren't necessarily targeted to a particular function. So in this example, we used the very same technology platform in the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency that we used for the Mayor's Fund in L.A., yet it was a very different business function. In this case, it was to enable small ad medium sized businesses to navigate the permit process for how to get businesses up and running or how to keep them running. Previously, this was a really frustrating process, very labor intensive, but we're able to configure the same kind of technology platform as what we had in L.A. to make it a much easier process.

Bob Nevins:

Similarly, if you go to the next slide, we did this in a number of different states as it relates to substance use disorder, and I happen to be very involved in the very first one we did in Massachusetts. There always had been a telephone help line for folks or families that were suffering as a result of substance use disorder, but at the time, the governor really wanted us to kind of step things up and make it a much easier process for people to find help. So, we worked with the state of Massachusetts and improved their portal so that it really worked much better and individuals could come in, or family members, or case workers, they could answer a number of questions about the particular individual who was suffering, where did they live, how far are they willing to travel, what was their health insurance, what sort of substance are they using, how long.

Bob Nevins:

As a result of gathering all of that information, we could tailor the resources that they should be accessing in order to help with their issue and maybe the treatment centers that are best for them given their particular circumstances, give them a better chance of recovering. It was so successful that we actually replicated it in Illinois and most recently in Vermont. Same technology platform, a little different configuration for each state, but not radical, and quite frankly, before the pandemic, substance use disorder, in particular opioids, was the number one policy objective on almost every governors plate. So, certainly was something that was successful for us.

Bob Nevins:

If we go on to the next slide here Ryan, the last thing I just want to talk about briefly is the COVID-19 prevention solution that we've put in place working with the National Institutes of Health. Really what this does is it enables individuals to come and sign up to be a phase three volunteer for a vaccine study. Just before coming on to this Webinar, I actually did this and went through the series of questions and signed up myself, and it was really easy, and at the end of the process, it brought up a YouTube that it had a number of different individuals from the National Institutes of Health and this COVID-19 protection network, and thank you for signing up, really explain what the next processes are or what you might be hearing over the next several weeks.

Bob Nevins:

I really felt good about the whole process. So, those were a few examples of what we're able to do with our technology and really focusing in on the major problems of the day or challenges of the day in the public sector. One more slide actually, just so I don't forget. Here's a few links that we have that folks can go on and check out. The first is our free Oracle Cloud tier, where, actually you can go in and see how this all works, see what it's like to be on the Oracle Cloud. Folks can also register for training. We have a link to our public sector specific part of the website. Lastly, in collaboration with e-Republic and government technology, we have a leading in crisis website, which is really all about solutions that are coming about as a result of the pandemic. So, a very good resource for folks to go in and check out.

Bob Nevins:

So, thanks Ryan. Appreciate it.

Ryan Ko:

Absolutely. Thank you Bob for sharing. Just really quickly I think the first question that's come in via the Q&A here is one that Mary you mentioned you were going to answer live. The question is, how did you ensure you're reaching everybody with the distribution of these funds, especially the most vulnerable small businesses?

Mary Hodge:

Yeah, it's a great question. So first, the Angeleno Card was not for businesses, it was for individuals, but how we made sure we reached everybody was we, I mean, people who were selected for the card, they received at least 10 different phone calls from the phone vendor that we partnered with. They received I would say up to about five to six different emails constantly reminding them to be able to go to the next step. So, we kept our process open, we had different cohorts every time when we kept adding new people from the wait list, but if you were a cohort one who we told you-you could get the card in April, if you all of a sudden popped up in June, we definitely let you keep going through the system and paid the card out to you because we wanted to make sure that the group of folks that we were dealing with are folks who are used to, don't want to answer the phone to a number that they're not used to, emails coming in to them from a government agency isn't necessarily seen positively.

Mary Hodge:

So, we learned very early on just sending one phone call to them or one email was not going to cut it, we needed to give them all of the benefit of the doubt and just constantly push to see how many people we could transition over to getting the card.

Ryan Ko:

Thanks, and maybe we'll just open it up and this is a question for all of the panelists. I think what amazes me about this project is just how quickly the public and private partnership was set up and executed, and I'm just curious, you're all incredibly experienced and have seen different technology projects across government, human services, health services, social services, and more. I think this audience is probably especially interested in what made this work so well so quickly in the midst of a crisis?

Abigail Marquez:

I think we talked about it a little Ryan, but it definitely is do to the infrastructure that we have in place and I think the city of Los Angeles is unique in the way that we fund our network of service providers. So, we have already an infrastructure of organizations that are serving the exact population that we were targeting through this program, and we also have a data system that we do already have in place that is collecting a variety of different demographic information, we're collecting ... We're very focused on a lot of different metrics and we're serving, again, the population that, although was different, it was not the population they were currently serving, but it was the population that we were targeting.

Abigail Marquez:

The other piece is that, again, what we talked about, we were able to really leverage different sets of partners to come to the table to help us with this program. I just really want to emphasize the value and the relationship that we have with our service providers, and I appreciate Mary giving them a shout out or highlighting them because it was really a unique approach. When we talked to other cities, that seems to be part of the initial sort of roadblock is really active ... Who do you have that has their boots on the ground that is able to quickly provide this direct cash assistance to eligible applicants.

Abigail Marquez:

So, we really did rely on them and we were able to provide them with all of the protective measures that they needed, and we are in a pandemic, so it's not where we can have crowds of people gathering at a community center. So, we had to be very intentional about how we designed the program to protect both the recipients of the card, but also our service providers.

Mary Hodge:

I'd also add contracts in a city government are very hard to get signed very quickly and I would say that this is unique because COVID happened and a lot of different rules that usually apply in city governments are not out the window but are definitely lax a little bit, which makes it a lot easier to push contracts through like the one we needed with Oracle or other partners. The other thing I would say is that we raised the money through a non-profit, so that was also a very big thing that helped us move much faster. So, all of the funds were raised through the Mayor's Fund, which is the non-profit that the mayor has that's on the side, so it was great. The funds were going into the Mayor's Fund, they were able to raise all of that money and do all of that instead of it needing to come into the city and figure out a place for it to go, which would have definitely slowed things down, and how just regular city government works.

Bob Nevins:

Yeah, I'd like to just echo what Mary said about the urgency that was brought about by the pandemic. There may be a silver lining that comes out of this is that the unusually cumbersome bureaucratic roadblocks sometimes get in the way, we can really take a look at those and decide how to get rid of them, how to make procurements run much more smoothly because at the end of the day it's about getting to results and getting to results that help the people we are trying to serve.

Ryan Ko:

Question that just came through Zoom was what was your greatest challenge with the project and what would you do differently next time, and if I may also spin this a little bit, which is, what are the learnings that you take moving forward, kind of to what Bob just said of this project and how you bring it to the rest of your work?

Mary Hodge:

I'll go first on that one. The biggest thing I would take away from is password reset. Everybody has problems with password reset, no matter who you are, and letting people reset their password because they're going to do it a million times is a big thing, you should just always incorporate it into any kind of technology, anything, because otherwise it just results in a million calls and having to do it for them, and it's just a lot. I myself lose my passwords a million times, so that was a big positive I've learned that I will make sure is happening on every single project happening forward.

Mary Hodge:

Some of the things I'd do differently and just some of the things we learned, I mean COVID is a real problem and our non-profits were really lucky at the beginning when people were coming in that we weren't having full scale shutdowns of the locations because of COVID, but towards the end as COVID was getting worse, we were having people come in because the need is there, they needed the money, no matter how many times you said please don't come in if you have symptoms, they would still come in, which would result in needing to shut down a location if they were exposed.

Mary Hodge:

So, we didn't really have the time at the moment, but incorporating being able to upload documents, which we're doing on another program right now, which is working extremely well, I think at first that we thought that wasn't going to be something people were going to be able to do, naively, but another program we're doing right now with rental assistance, it's definitely working, and it's great.

Mary Hodge:

Just trying to figure out other ways for people to be able to do this from the office and not have to come in and verify their documents. The verifying documents is really important so we can make sure that we're giving funds out to people who need funds, but figuring out other ways, whether it's uploading documents or doing, I know Oracle has talked to us about the way that they can do a live chat inside Oracle and building it into the phone bank inside the database, stuff like that if we would've had more time I think we would've done from the beginning, but it's great to know that those tools exist, and it's something we would do moving forward.

Ryan Ko:

That's very helpful, and perhaps ... Oh, go ahead.

Abigail Marquez:

Yeah, I was just going to add that I think the biggest challenge was just trying to respond to such an unprecedented need. I think that this pandemic provided a glaring just example of the challenges that families, again, many of them were facing prior and have fallen into deeper economic distress, and our service providers were challenged, particularly challenged with I think on a day where we had maximum appointments scheduled, they were seeing anywhere form 150 to 200 people per day per site across 20 sites, and we had to quickly shift our priority to respond and support applicants and issuing them the Angeleno Card, but we also had a host of other families who were in need of other types of services.

Abigail Marquez:

So, trying to really support our non-profit partners in first, as Mary mentioned, keeping them safe and free from COVID, which we started to see a lot of cases of COVID come up towards the end, but also trying to figure out how to continue to provide services to multiple households who were facing multiple challenges. So, Angeleno Card really allowed for us, so I'll just give you an example, in our normal system, in our normal cycle, we serve about 40,000 people through our family source system. Under the Angeleno Card program, we served close to 60,000 if you consider those that came in who weren't eligible for the card for a variety of different reasons. That's just in a short window of eight weeks we saw the volume of people that we see in a year.

Abigail Marquez:

So, just the demand that was placed on our service providers was I think was a challenge, but I also, the learning from that is they're resilient and they really want to be able to support and respond. So, that was incredibly just, it was wonderful to see that they really our partners to the city and I think the respect is mutual for us and them.

Ryan Ko:

Maybe this next question is going to go to Bob. Bob, you've actually also been a public servant in a past life as well and you've seen government technology systems, large and small, simple and complex, and your experience tends to work well in this collaboration and what advice would you give our audience now that you've seen both sides of this from both public servant and vendor on how to work with each other?

Bob Nevins:

Yeah. So, I spent 25 years working in public sector roles and it was always at the intersection of kind of technology and government. I always used to try to think of things from the customer perspective, how would they want to interact with government. For instance, the early websites for governments were very agency-centric. So, that made sense for the government, but it didn't necessarily make sense for the citizen or the businesses that we're trying to interact with government. So, we changed a lot of that in one of my roles and, again, I always try to think about it from the standpoint of the citizen or myself, how would I want to navigate this process, what would be easy for me and what barriers are in the way for making it easy that we can just get rid of because they don't make sense.

Bob Nevins:

So, it's simple advice, but think about it from the citizen's perspective and how you would like to navigate a particular process.

Ryan Ko:

Yeah. As we move forward, one thing that you mentioned earlier is you saw kind of the shifting mindsets as we talk about procurement and contracting and remote work, as you mentioned in a blog post on the Code for America site as well. What are the key trends you see moving forward kind of in this market, as you talked a lot to public servants, and sort of what are they asking for and what are they excited to work with Oracle on?

Bob Nevins:

I'm sorry Ryan, [crosstalk]—

Ryan Ko:

Oh, you were replying to something on the chat, sorry. I was just asking as you kind of sort of see across the government landscape, you've mentioned in our blog post on the Code for America website for example the shift to remote, you mentioned earlier in this conversation for example changing perceptions around procurement and moving faster, et cetera. So, I'm just curious what trends you see moving forward?

Bob Nevins:

Yeah, I think certainly we talk about Cloud innovation, unfortunately what's going to happen over the next couple of years is the operating budgets of cities and towns and states is probably going to go down. So, they're going to have to look for ways to serve the same number of people and businesses with fewer resources. Cloud technology in all of its forms can accommodate that. I think there's going to be less face-to-face interaction as a result of the pandemic. So, there's going to be more perhaps use of video, easier ways for people to interface with government.

Bob Nevins:

I think because of the enormous amounts of data that are now available, I think government programs are going to be much more data driven than they have been in the past and that's going to enable us to be more efficient, design programs around what the data is telling us. That goes along with making use of things like artificial intelligence and machine learning that actually interact with those mounds of data that have become available. So, those are just a few of the things that I think we'll see change over the next years.

Ryan Ko:

I'm curious actually both for Abby and Mary, what about from your perspective are you continue to move forward and meet needs of the people you serve and the government you're working in, and as you move from crisis response to stability and recovery as we look forward, any trends, any thoughts on how to better work with vendors in technology moving forward?

Abigail Marquez:

Mary, do you want to [crosstalk]—

Mary Hodge:

I'm thinking on this. I think there's just a lot more technology that we don't even know about and how it can actually work with us. So, just having those discussions and meeting with more and more people, different groups, different vendors, and just hearing all they can do and seeing the presentations. Like when we were talking about how we were kind of, for lack of a better word, jangly putting together FaceTime so I could put your, show your stuff on your screen, Oracle was like we have Live Experience and they walked us through Live Experience and we're like, "Oh, this is really cool."

Mary Hodge:

So, I just think there's a lot of stuff that we don't necessarily know is available. So, just taking the time to kind of really go through and hear all of the stuff that's out there and how we could use it, I think is something that we'll be looking forward to do in the future, especially when we're not in this crisis mode of just trying to hurry up and get stuff done. It'd be great to actually get to tinker with stuff and hear about all of the cool stuff that's out there, which is great, which is why Code for America is cool because we can see what other people are doing and share this stuff so we can kind of learn from other cities and what other people are using.

Abigail Marquez:

Yeah, I think the piece I will add and I know that our worlds are changing and we are adapting to this new reality, our new normal, and it will absolutely change the way that government operates and it's already changed vastly in the last couple of months. The mayor just issued an executive order around contact-less services, city services, and Mary and I have been in a lot of conversations with a number of departments that are interested in replicating to some scale the work that we did with Angeleno Card and looking at, I think what's really great about the Angeleno Card was the pre-pay card feature that allows for the population that we have in our city that is un-banked or under-banked to have access to a way to make payments or to have a relationship with some type of financial institution or be able to make these cash transfers in a way that they wouldn't be able to without this type of product.

Abigail Marquez:

So, for that, we also are very appreciative of our relationship with not just Oracle but with MasterCard and Prepay, which allowed a whole population within our economy to be able to access these types of services. So, we're looking at ways to enhance that to be able to make this type of service available for folks to be able to pay their utility bills on a regular basis without having to go in-in person to do that. So, I think that it's creating a whole host of other opportunities for us locally that we're very excited about.

Ryan Ko:

Thank you. Well, just keeping an eye on time, we're at the top of the hour. So, I just really wanted to thank Abby, and Mary, and Bob, and our sponsor Oracle for setting this up and allowing us to have this amazing case example of government technology and just really serving people when it's needed the most. Just in closing, something I'd like to offer up is our Code for America slogan. When we wrote this 10 years ago, we really felt like the conversation around government and technology was really starting, so we kind of, in typical non-profit fashion decided to take a bit of a controversial tone with no one is coming, it's up to us, and over the past 10 years as we've worked, we've realized that all of the attendees on the call, all the public servants, and all the governments and vendors who are thinking through this, it really does feel like everyone is showing up to this conversation.

Ryan Ko:

So, thank you for that, and just one last slide here, just as always, you can find Code for America online. Our blog is at CodeforAmerica.org/news. We operate under the, we're just really grateful for any donations that you can provide at /donate, and please do follow us @CodeforAmerica as well. And with that, I think that's all the time we have. So thank you again to Abby and Mary from the city of L.A. and Bob from Oracle, and thank you to our amazing audience for attending another one of our Code for America virtual Summit series discussions.

Abigail Marquez:

Thank you, thank you Ryan, thank you Bob.

Mary Hodge:

Thank you Ryan.

Abigail Marquez:

Thank you Mary. Thanks everyone.

 

Tags:   COVID-19 Local Government