In the summer of 2020, the state of Minnesota created the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program to offer relief for families struggling to keep up with rent, mortgage, and/or utilities payments during the pandemic. The goal: Distributing more than $20 million in CARES Act funding to cover these housing costs for people in need.
To make the program work, the state needed a robust and user-friendly online application system — one that would allow people to apply for assistance, while supporting the state and its partners to review applications and distribute the funds as quickly as possible.
Software for Good’s client HousingLink, which provides affordable housing information and access, saw an opportunity to build on the work we had already done together to create the Housing Hub platform. With the state eager to launch the assistance program as soon as possible, we sprang into action to craft the software.
To manage applications and distribute funding, program administrators from 44 agencies across the state log into the system to review submissions, contact applicants for supporting documents and information, and approve payments. The United Way is another partner for the program, inviting people in need of assistance to use the 2-1-1 helpline to sign up for the program and submit their applications. Our team worked closely with HousingLink to manage all of the project requirements, holding daily virtual meetings to review progress, prioritize features, and work through testing and bugs.
One proud moment on the project came when, after a big team push to get the application up and running by the state’s deadline, we received a thank you from Minnesota’s governor. Along with the other project partners, we got a shout-out here from Governor Walz:
In the first month after its launch, the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program received requests for more than $30 million in rent, mortgage, and utilities relief. And we haven’t stopped building and refining, continuing to work closely with HousingLink and their partners to identify opportunities for improvement and add new features to make the system more efficient and user-friendly. At a time when many people are struggling, we’re proud to support direct relief for those in need.