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The custom-scoped application, built from the ground up by Cask has provided quality control, oversight protection, and automation to a once time- and labor-intensive government process.

As cities across the country were shut down in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the agricultural industry experienced an unprecedented interruption to their supply chains. Farmers and ranchers, unable to sell much of their food crops, turned to the government for assistance.

In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act Relief Bill (CARES) — a $2 Trillion economic stimulus deal — was passed. Under CARES, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFFAP) was designed to provide funding to farmers whose business had been negatively impacted. However, with more than 100,000  industry members seeking aid, the application and review process was cumbersome and inefficient.

Under the new system, the team sought to create a separate application review process specifically for CFFAP applications while minimizing the time and effort that went into the review process. With automation, the government’s limited resources could be better managed, and the farmers and ranchers could more quickly get the support they needed.

“There were a very large number of contracts coming in,” Joseph Nicotera, Business Analyst at Cask said. “So, our customer’s intent was to provide oversight and integrity to this program to make sure that the funds were delivered to legitimate people who needed it. But in addition to that, there was a check on the quality of the applications to make sure that they were filled out correctly.”

Due to the urgency of the requests, the Cask team had four weeks to build the algorithm and all the code to ensure applications met compliance requirements, to support not only the development but the deployment and maintenance of the program. In that time, Cask was able to lay the groundwork to be able to automatically pull in completed applications daily, as well as import and map the reviewers to each state and county.

The Internal Review Document Tracking System (IRDTS) application had quickly become overrun with the large volume of requests coming in, so a team from Cask developed CFFAP functionality on top of this existing ServiceNow implementation to automate the process.”

Saul Solis, Product Owner at Cask

“The problem with the existing application method, which was a governance system for checking the status of other programs, is that the process was very intensive,” Tyler Higley, ServiceNow Developer, said. “The IRDTS app was in limited use prior to us hopping on with the project, simply because it was so cumbersome. They were trying to bring states on one by one. They had to do training sessions with each of the district directors and major stakeholders, and that took a lot of time and effort. And so, it was in a place where they were ready to do large scale nationwide sampling for the CFFAP program, and that’s where we came in and filled in the gaps.”

To that end, Cask created a new review process that allowed the program manager to randomly sample applications as they came in and send them automatically to reviewers nationwide. The new functionality also allowed the reviewer to update their response within three days of submission, so that the information was always kept up to date.

Reporting and dashboards were set up to allow the program manager and state officials to be able to track reporting by county, identifying potential problem areas that may require additional training. Results show the central organization where issues with form compliance might lie with a heat map for easy viewing.

Moving forward, the app will simplify the application, review, and on-boarding process for the CFFAP program and others like it. Today, is has been deployed for management of the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), which aids farmers and ranchers who have lost traditional export markets as a result of unjustified foreign retaliatory tariffs

We created a way to automate the assignment of these reviews that come in that are sampled and manually assign them to the district directors for each state. That way, there was no manual intervention, and [the government] can run samples and do reviews without having to spend a lot of time and energy at each state level.”

Tyler Higley, ServiceNow Developer at Cask

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