COVID-19 Crisis: Bridging the Service Gap with Third-Party Resources
As uncertainty persists around the SARS-CoV-2 virus and incidence of COVID-19, state and local governments are expected to not only provide continuity in public services but deliver additional services to the people in their communities. It is difficult for agencies to keep pace with the ever-growing needs of constituents. In fact, some states are experiencing more unemployment claims in the first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic than they did during the entire previous year. The overwhelming number of applicants means crashing unemployment websites and has staff members working overtime to answer requests. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Security Act (CARES Act) will provide much-needed financial aid to states and localities, but these funds bring challenges of their own with respect to oversight and accountability. Agencies must choose where to allocate funding, and they will be expected to adhere to strict compliance regulations as they process thousands of requests for loans, grants and other funds.
This article explores several key benefits state and local government officials should consider related to third-party resources in these uncertain times.
How can state and local governments keep up with all these demands?
In our experience, there are no easy answers, but there are best practices and resources available that can help state and local government agencies operate effectively in times of crisis. As recommended by the Government Finance Officers Association, in times of financial distress, some states are hiring outside agencies and third-party resources to bridge the gap in services.
Why work with third-party resources?
Outside professionals can offer support, a fresh perspective and specialized training and experience that can help community leaders move forward with confidence. They also help validate community decisions and lend credibility and transparency that help agencies respond to critics.
According to the FEMA 2018 Continuity Guidance Circular, “nonfederal governments should pursue mutual aid agreements, memorandums of understanding, and contracts with private sector vendors and contractors to supplement or temporarily perform some essential functions under the direction and control of the affected jurisdiction.”
Contracting with third-party resources offers many benefits to state and local government agencies. These outside resources can contribute in the following ways:
- Having specialized skills and training not found among local government employees
- Offering a wide range of experience across multiple industries
- Bringing in a wide range of resources and specialists to apply their knowledge to unique problems raised by the COVID-19 pandemic
- Providing an objective, outside perspective to government processes
- Performing specialized tasks and alleviating government employee workload
- Bridging the gap of a downsized workforce due to COVID-19 illness or hardship
- Providing checks and balances to agency procedures and adding a level of transparency to the public
Where can agencies connect with these resources?
No matter the need or problem a government agency might have, there is undoubtedly an outside vendor ready and willing to offer a solution. This has become exceedingly evident as the COVID-19 pandemic has created needs in state and local agencies across the country. Even well-prepared agencies are experiencing shortages of goods, services, volunteers and donations, creating a need for innovative thought. States and local governments must think beyond “business as usual” to meet the needs of their constituents.
Fortunately, there are several ways states and localities can find sources for quality goods and services. The first thing agencies can do is reach out to vendors and contractors they already work with to determine whether there are additional services those businesses can provide. Working with a business that is already familiar with the way the state or local government operates makes transitions go more smoothly.
In addition to their regular procurement channels, state and local governments can advertise their needs on a variety of different websites. For example, City Innovate and the COVID Challenge Platform have created digital platforms to match cities with pandemic help at no cost to the government agency.
Recently, the General Services Administration (GSA) has opened the Multiple Award Schedule contracts to state and local governments. This provides state and local governments with the opportunity to buy from any GSA schedule and any participating schedule contractor during the time of the pandemic, giving access to preapproved, prequalified vendors. There is no special blanket purchase agreement or item number for this. To find out more about how the GSA supports the procurement needs of state and local governments, see GSA’s website.
Veterans Affairs also has opened its schedules under similar but slightly different authority. State and local governments can buy directly from those contracts as well.
How can BKD help?
BKD supports the mission of local government and the important jobs these agencies do every day. For years, our trusted advisors have worked alongside public sector agencies at every level of government. We have used our expertise and insight to help government entities achieve their specific financial, operational and risk management objectives. Now, in the face of COVID-19, our professionals want to bring together our public sector experience, top-tier data analytics tools and process knowledge to help address the risks and challenges of this pandemic. Below are just some of the services we can provide:
- Grant Monitoring – We can assess an agency’s grants management policies, procedures and processes to assist management in identifying possible weaknesses and potential improvements in internal controls over the grants management cycle and compliance with federal grantee requirements.
- Financial Monitoring/Compliance/Internal Controls – With dedicated advisors who focus on serving governmental clients year-round, complemented by our numerous professionals who perform financial monitoring, internal audits and compliance assessments, we have the experience and level of commitment you require.
- Unemployment Claims – With the overwhelming influx of unemployment claim requests, BKD can offer additional resources to help agencies process applications, monitor payments, etc.
- Regulatory Compliance & Implementation – BKD knows current regulations are rapidly evolving and actively works year-round to help our professionals and clients stay apprised. Our experienced advisors can help you understand newly proposed and enacted regulatory provisions.
- Organizational Assessment – Government accounting functions must meet community needs and demonstrate to taxpayers that appropriate measures are taken for financial stewardship. This involves offering financial management best practices related to staffing, technology and business processes.
As a GSA contract holder, BKD also offers the following under the GSA Multiple Award Schedule:
- Due diligence and support services
- Budget and financial management services
- Management and financial consulting
- Acquisition and grants management support
- Business program and project management services
- Risk assessment and mitigation services
BKD can tailor a solution to meet your specific needs and improve service delivery outcomes, comply with policy requirements, reduce costs and manage waste.
As with most topics related to COVID-19, changes are being made rapidly. Please note that this information is current as of the date of publication. Reach out to your BKD Trusted Advisor™ or submit the Contact Us form below if you have questions.