Thursday, May 23, 2013

Vicksburg's Last Round is Done

Our last round is over.

Although there are currently no aggregate numbers for the amount of work we did at the NPSC, I do have my own totals. In approximately four weeks, or around seventeen days of work, I did the following:

-Made 340 calls to people identified by FEMA algorithms as having passed a certain threshold of assistance from FEMA, inquiring if they by any chance needed long-term rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. I divided them later on into “calls” and “extra”, with “extra” being multiple calls to different numbers for the same people (since accounts frequently had two or three numbers in them), but sadly my numbers in the first two weeks were for different purposes and I did not record that particular stat.
-Spoke with 130 people, comprising just about every Sandy-related situation imaginable. Some were still in apartments or somebody’s basement or someone else’s second home and would be for months to come, and who gladly accepted an offer of long-term help. Some were long since back in their homes and needed no aid. Many seniors and grandparents were staying with their children without rent, and thus had no need for our assistance. Others had maybe a month to go before they were back in the home; most of these were covered by regular FEMA rental assistance, who struck the database in a great wave in mid-May and recertified just about everybody I found for a few days, rendering my program somewhat obsolete.
-In all those hundred and thirty, there existed 37 people who needed what FEMA had to offer. I asked about their renting situation, the name, number and address of their landlord, what their plan was, how long it would take, referred them to a caseworker and set up a time for an appointment with them.
-After this came the twenty-two DHAP calculators that I completed. The calculator is a beastly, nasty piece of software that was forever developing new warts or asking for documents that simply were not in the records, occasioning a great deal of muttered cursing. These were meant to calculate the applicant’s income and total housing costs, to see what they could pay on their own and what HUD would have to chip in to keep them afloat.
-Forty-one cases I placed in the incomplete file, either through the natural progression of each case while the DHAP calculator was done, or from want of needed documents or somebody at the JFO putting in a case that clearly wasn’t needed. All of these were duly completed, solved or removed as they deserved. 
-Finally, I marked eighty-eight cases ineligible. These were people who had been swept up by the FEMA algorithms based on their having received $20,000 in assistance or more, and who manifestly did not need the help; many of them, in fact, had gotten back into their homes in November and December. It was sometimes the work of a moment, sometimes much longer, to puzzle through the documents and the signs and the tells in their file and figure out what each person’s deal was. If there was any doubt about whether they were back in the home or not (maddeningly enough, the official JFO Case Review in all its might and glory does not trouble itself to ask that question except by accident, and so the majority of reviews do not include this essential fact), a simple remedy was a quick phone call.

So passed my time at the National Processing Service Center. It was full of minor problems that I learned how to surmount; communications foul-ups, unclear instructions, calculator issues, JFO skullduggery, arcane casework and the like. I felt quite good about myself by the end of it; with a month’s on-the-job experience, I had gotten pretty decent at this whole call-out business. hopefully that’s a skill, or bit of experience or what have you, that will transfer to whatever job I end up with next.

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