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How Cloud Technology Can Help Support Economic Recovery

Putting COVID-19 relief funds to work

Americans are growing more and more hopeful that the end of the pandemic is in sight. The new COVID-19 relief dollars flowing into state and local budgets represent a tremendous opportunity to impact communities and build a foundation for growth. And as a result, agency leaders need to swiftly get these funds into the hands of constituents who need help. 

These new resources present a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a foundation that strengthens the social safety net, improves local economies, and addresses long-standing inequities in the way government delivers critical services. Often the systems that support the administration and delivery of these critical resources are older legacy systems that cannot be easily or quickly updated. Fortunately, the rapid deployment of cloud technology can help state and local governments build an agile, modern foundation to deliver critical services to the community – now and in the future. 

Helping to support rental, mortgage & utility and water relief The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 will provide more than $37 billion in rent, mortgage, utility and water relief.  This is in addition to the $25 billion previously allocated for rent and utility relief in December 2020. Mortgage and water relief are new programs. The requirements for rent and utility relief continue to evolve with each new Covid-19 relief bill. How can state and local governments quickly administer and streamline these programs at an unprecedented speed and scale? 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Google Cloud has been helping government agencies rapidly stand up service portals and modules to administer new benefit programs. Our rapid application development solution, fueled by a low-code / no-code platform has enabled Google Cloud and our partners to implement mission critical functionality in days and weeks rather than months.  For example, when Congress authorized Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the New York Department of Labor couldn’t take applications for the new program and the existing architecture couldn’t scale to meet the demand.  In days, Google Cloud implemented a public-facing portal that accepted applications and, over the following weeks, continued to add critical functionality. This enabled the NY Department of Labor to serve millions of unemployed New Yorkers.  

Supporting Unemployment Assistance with Cloud AI
As of early March, over 700,000 individuals had applied for unemployment every week for 51 weeks. In our nation’s history, we’ve never had 700,000 applications in one week – much less 51 weeks in a row. Never before has it been more important to help local communities receive unemployment benefits and support individuals and families in need. State and local agencies have overcome significant challenges to deliver these critical services by using cloud-based artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML).  For example, in a matter of weeks, the State of Illinois implemented Google Cloud Contact Center AI to help over 1 million residents apply for  unemployment. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development used predictive analytics and comprehensive data models to clear a backlog of 590,095 claimants and pay over $4.68 billion in unemployment to Wisconsin residents in need.  As we move into 2021, with new document requirements for individuals receiving and applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, AI/ML is playing a critical role in automating the processing of millions of verification documents.  Enabling unemployment agencies to automate manual document processing and focus their staff on more complex issues.   

Helping job seekers get back to work The American Rescue Plan is extending unemployment insurance benefits to those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.  Technology can support both employers and individuals returning to work. AI and machine learning can match job seekers’ skills to job openings, particularly in industries recovering rapidly. Solutions such as Google’s Virtual Career Center can support job seekers and employers with enhanced search and match capabilities, virtual interviews and job fairs, and virtual job training and coaching. Technology can also provide policymakers with in-depth data on industries that are recovering and those that are still struggling. This allows resources to be targeted better to speed up recovery in individual communities.

Data as a tool to super-charge economic recoveryWe’re encouraging our government partners to make good use of existing data and the ability to collect new data. Analyzing community data enables benefit program administrators to understand the gaps and overlaps in services to citizens enrolled in multiple programs. Beyond this initial crisis, this data enables policymakers to predict future community needs. For example, if community leaders had insights into how many landlords were going to provide a grace period versus those that would immediately evict once federal benefits were exhausted, this would inform what additional resources were needed. 

These insights also support policies to help industries such as retail, hospitality, and leisure, as well as small businesses, that have been disproportionately affected by COVID. As communities reopen and recover, data can provide government agencies with insight into citizens and industries that are recovering versus those that are struggling–so that policies and resources can be deployed to support a more rapid recovery.  Google Cloud’s BigQuery and other data analytics tools, which easily integrate with existing systems and other cloud providers, can enable a rich set of data analytics, scenario analysis, and artificial intelligence that informs strategy, operations and tactical activities to accelerate recovery–community by community, family by family, and for individuals and children.
Interested in learning more? Access the on-demand webinar from the Center for Digital Government and Google Cloud, An Agile Approach to Economic Recovery, where we discussed management of COVID relief funds while setting the stage for a deeper transformation of social safety net programs.

By: Leah Popoff(State and Local Government Affairs and Public Policy, Google Cloud) and Denise Winkler(Strategic Business Executive, Global Public Sector, Google Cloud)
Source: Google Cloud Blog

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