During the pandemic, Arizona received millions of dollars in Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance (ERA) funds to provide rent and utility assistance to residents. To ensure efficient program delivery, Maricopa County formed a work group that included the cities of Phoenix, Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, and Glendale, all of which received similar funds. Together, they developed program delivery guidelines to ensure that Maricopa County residents received consistent and effective services that aligned with the Treasury guidelines for ERA funding. The work group provided a platform for peers to collaborate and establish a cohesive approach to meet the needs of residents in a timely and efficient manner.
Need Addressed by the Program
The need for the ERA collaborative workgroup in Arizona was significant due to the lack of established policies regarding rental and utility services. While some guidance was provided, it was up to the individual areas to establish policies, which led to inconsistencies in program delivery. Additionally, ERA was primarily delivered through the Community Action Agency (CAA) network, but in Maricopa County, there were only three designated CAAs for three cities, which posed a challenge for efficient and equitable program delivery. Therefore, coordination was crucial to ensure that residents in Maricopa County and other cities received the same level of assistance and support to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic. The formation of the work group allowed for the development of consistent program delivery guidelines and ensured that all eligible residents had equal access to ERA funds.
The ERA program was a heavily utilized aid program used by many Arizonans to assist with rent and utility payments to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic. The program provided rent and utility assistance to eligible residents through the Community Action Agency (CAA) network, but in Maricopa County, which included the cities of Phoenix, Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, and Glendale, there were only three designated CAAs, which posed a challenge for program delivery. To ensure that all eligible residents received equitable and efficient services, Maricopa County developed a work group that included the other cities that received similar funds.
The partners involved in the work group met weekly during 2021 and 2022 to review any challenges encountered during program delivery and to ensure that funding expenditures were consistent with the Treasury guidelines. The collaboration among the various jurisdictions was amazing, and they developed policies, created forms, and flushed out processes to ensure that clients moving from one city to the next experienced the same program guidelines. The rental and utility services provided had some guidance but left policy up to the various areas to establish.
The workgroup established a platform for peers to collaborate and ensure that eligible County residents would have the same level of programmatic services. As funding became more limited, the group continued to provide one another with updates so that everyone would have a line of sight into the others' program. It was crucial for the County to be united in the delivery as well as the close out of the funding. The collaboration ensured that all eligible residents had equal access to ERA funds, and the work group's consistent program delivery guidelines allowed for the timely and efficient distribution of funds to those in need. The program was a critical lifeline for many residents who were struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.
Responding to Economic Downturn
The collaboration between Maricopa County and the cities of Phoenix, Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, and Glendale through the work group was crucial in addressing the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. The weekly meetings between the members of the workgroup allowed for timely and effective communication regarding any challenges encountered during the program delivery, as well as funding expenditures. The close coordination ensured that the funding was distributed equitably and efficiently and that the program met the Treasury guidelines. By working together, the County and the cities were able to unite in the delivery and close out the funding, providing much-needed relief to residents impacted by the economic downturn.
Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The collaboration established among the various jurisdictions to ensure equitable programmatic services for all eligible residents demonstrates a commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The group's efforts to provide updates and maintain transparency as funding became limited further reinforced this commitment, as it allowed everyone to have equal access to information and resources. The program's success can be attributed to the collaborative approach that prioritized DEI and ensured that everyone had a fair and equal opportunity to benefit from the program.
Maricopa County's Human Services Department successfully implemented the program without incurring any additional costs. The project was accomplished using existing staff and resources, which showcases the department's ability to efficiently utilize available resources. By leveraging the expertise and talents of their existing team, the department was able to complete the program while minimizing expenses. This approach not only demonstrates fiscal responsibility but also underscores the department's commitment to achieving its goals while operating within budgetary constraints.
Results/Success of the Program
Maricopa County has expended over $90 million in rental assistance to eligible residents.
The Maricopa County Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance Program demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to collaboration, innovation, and responsiveness in the face of unprecedented challenges brought on by the pandemic. The program's success can be attributed to the County's coordination efforts with cities and partners, their proactive approach to developing program delivery guidelines, and their commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. This program's ability to serve the needs of County residents in a timely and efficient manner while maintaining high levels of programmatic service is a testament to the dedication of the partners involved.