The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has given public housing agencies a good deal of flexibility in how they can use CARES Act funds, but included in HUD guidance are phrases such as “costs related to maintaining adequate social distancing” and “increasing service hours to prevent crowding in waiting areas, or any other costs incurred to ensure adequate distance among staff and residents.” Other allowable costs include those for “protecting residents (particularly high-risk residents) from exposure from interaction with PHA staff and vice versa.”
The CARES Act included $685 million to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic, and to help public housing agencies (PHAs) maintain normal operations.”
And one of the best ways housing authorities are finding to accomplish those goals is by deploying self-service solutions that allow agency staff to serve residents where they are, in a safe and socially distanced manner, and at times that are most convenient for those residents. Advanced Kiosks’ Office Extension 2.0, for example, is already serving as a robotic office for housing authorities across the country.
Improving and expanding service options
Office Extension 2.0 addresses several challenges faced by residents of public housing as well as housing authority staff:
- Residents may not have the time or transportation to make it to an agency office during regular business hours. When deployed in the lobby of a leasing office or apartment building, Office Extension 2.0 allows tenants to pay rent, submit maintenance requests, or sign a lease whenever it may be convenient, providing service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- There’s no longer a need for residents to mail or hand-carry documents to the authority office. When residents fill out a form, scan a document, or complete any other services, the kiosk instantly and securely sends a PDF to a selected manager’s inbox. So, for example, if a tenant in a housing complex signs a new lease, the manager will receive that PDF within seconds. It’s the same if someone scans documents such as pay stubs or submits a copy of their driver’s license.
- Organizations of all types are facing unprecedented staffing shortages. Office Extension 2.0 can help take the workload off overworked and overstressed front-line staff.
- Office Extension 2.0 can provide services in a variety of languages. HUD has made it clear that it’s a violation of the Fair Housing Act to discriminate against residents who speak limited to no English, and Office Extension 2.0 helps eliminate those concerns.
- Both the hardware and software that make up the Office Extension 2.0 solution are ADA compliant. About 36% of families in public housing include a member who is disabled, and Office Extension 2.0 can assist in providing a convenient, comfortable experience for those residents.
Functions of the Office Extension 2.0 solution include:
- Scanning – Guide users through scanning and securely sending documents.
- Form filling – Provide a paperless, contactless method for filling out documents.
- Printing – A variety of options, including label, ticket, and receipt printing.
- Bill payment – Secure payment system for paying bills, rent, taxes, and fines.
- VOIP services – Place phone calls through a directory or slideshow of quick-dial buttons.
- Information access – Easily provide information to the people who need it.
These features, and others, position Office Extension 2.0 as an additional 24/7 service center for housing authorities of all sizes.