For more than 15 years, SBP has helped families and communities recover and rebuild after disasters. A key piece of their work is connecting impacted individuals to the support they need.
Amid widespread reports of fraud, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has grown increasingly strict with disaster relief application approvals. In 2021, only 13% of applications were approved, the lowest percentage to date. Most households choose not to appeal an initial decision or are even aware they can. Only 3% of rejected applicants file an appeal.
In August 2021, SBP launched the FEMA Appeals Program to help families navigate the convoluted process. The program’s success initial success in SBP's home state of Louisiana relied on networking and referrals. But to help families in other regions access much-needed disaster relief, SBP needed an easy-to-access solution that could reach disaster survivors, wherever they might be located.
SBP, TTEC Digital, and AWS designed a remote disaster assistance contact center based on Amazon Connect, accessible nationwide through a single toll-free hotline. When someone calls in, they select the specific support they need – from information on emergency housing in their area, to how to submit an initial FEMA application – ensuring that the call is routed to an available and knowledgeable agent.
On the other end of the incoming call, through an integration between Amazon Connect and Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud, contact center agents receive an automatic screen pop on their desktop displaying all relevant information — including if this caller has reached out before — so they can identify, process, and support families and their needs efficiently. Further, the Salesforce integration provides SBP with the ability to locate and listen to previous customer call recordings directly from the Salesforce interface so they can revisit ongoing issues, or even generate ideas for agent training based on call feedback.
Launched in May 2022, SBP’s contact center immediately went to work to support families impacted by the December 2021 tornadoes that ripped through Kentucky — a state the organization had not previously been able to assist due to distance. Having a single contact number on marketing materials meant that survivors could directly reach a FEMA Appeals Program agent to begin the intake process and receive the guidance they need to successfully appeal.SBP predicts the hotline and its agents will help 200 survivors of the Kentucky tornadoes and recent floods to access at least $500,000 in additional FEMA award monies by December 2022. As of September 2022, the call center has allowed 87 survivors to directly connect with SBP.
As more disasters inevitably strike, agents will be on standby to support more families across other states as they begin their pathway to permanence.