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Emphasys Software Launches Tenant Payment Portal, a Payment Solution for Public Housing Authorities

PEMBROKE PINES, FL, Sept 28, 2022 – Emphasys Software (Emphasys), the provider of compliance-driven software specifically designed through collaborative partnerships with leading Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) throughout the nation, has announced the release of Tenant Payment Portal, a payment solution integrated with the Emphasys platform to create a single payment management system for tenants.

“Tenant Payment Portal offers a secure, online solution to our Public Housing Authority customers, who process about $800 million in annual tenant receivables,” said Lisa Dove, Product Owner at Emphasys Software. “We took notice of the struggles our clients were facing with manual tenant payment processing and wanted to offer a solution that was easy to use and cost effective.”

With Tenant Payment Portal, PHAs can collect tenant payments electronically via various payment methods, including ACH (eCheck), credit and debit card while maintaining the highest level of security available: PCI Level 1.

“Tenant Payment Portal aims to provide an effective and efficient way to collect payments and keep tenant information organized and secure,” noted Josh Beaver, Director of Sales & Marketing. “Accepting electronic payments helps PHAs by improving cash flows, eliminating the manual process of receiving and depositing paper checks, and ensuring payments are made on time through a monthly automated payment reminder.”

For more information about Emphasys Software, visit the website at https://emphasyspha.com/

About Emphasys Software:

As a pioneer of enterprise software for public housing authorities, Emphasys has set the standard for innovative compliance-based business solutions since 1976. Almost 200 of the nation’s largest and most prominent public housing authorities use their software to house nearly one million families each year. Emphasys offers a complete suite of enterprise software applications with service and support that automates business processes efficiently and effectively. Emphasys Software is a wholly owned subsidiary of Constellation Software Inc. (TSX:CSU).

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Emphasys Releases Mobile HQS: Inspections for iOS and Android

PEMBROKE PINES, FL, Sept 21, 2022 – Emphasys Software (Emphasys), the provider of compliance-driven software specifically designed through collaborative partnerships with leading Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) throughout the nation, has announced the release of their new handheld HQS Inspections solution, Mobile HQS, on the Apple iOS and Google Android platforms.

“We’re excited to complement our existing Windows HQS Touch solution with brand new apps for the popular iOS and Android platforms,” said Dave Badun, General Manager and CEO. “Our public housing agency clients need flexible mobile solutions for HUD HQS inspections, so it was an important initiative for us to expand with new offerings in this area.”

Mobile HQS is part of the Emphasys Elite housing software platform, which supports PHAs in their mission to provide clean, safe, affordable housing in their communities. Emphasys products provide comprehensive solutions for public and affordable housing to streamline everything that PHAs do. Mobile HQS integrates tightly with Elite HQS Inspections, supporting a variety of inspection types and allowing inspectors to collect and photograph inspection information. All information from inspectors syncs back to the main system, where caseworkers and program managers can access results without having to rekey any information.

“One feature we’re excited to introduce is the touch-to call,” noted Scott Evans, Director of Development. “Inspectors out in the field can, for example, tap the phone number on file to quickly call to verify entry to the unit. Combined with other key features, like local data storage (for when there is no internet connection available), digital signature collection, and a smooth data sync back to the main platform, the products provide a hassle-free experience for everyone involved.”

Mobile HQS for iOS is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, while Mobile HQS for Android is compatible with major brands of Android phones and tablets.

For more information about Mobile HQS for iOS and Android, visit the Emphasys website at https://emphasyspha.com/products/.

About Emphasys Software:

As a pioneer of enterprise software for public housing authorities, Emphasys has set the standard for innovative compliance-based business solutions since 1976. Almost 200 of the nation’s largest and most prominent public housing authorities utilize their software to house nearly one million families each year. Emphasys offers a complete suite of enterprise software applications with service and support that automates business processes efficiently and effectively. Emphasys Software is a wholly owned subsidiary of Constellation Software Inc. (TSX:CSU).

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How Public Housing Authorities Can Cope – and Thrive – During the Great Resignation

The Great Resignation has hit the public sector just as hard as most industries. Burnout is widespread, and vaccine mandates have resulted in some agencies losing key people at a critical time. Even before the pandemic-driven wave of people quitting and retiring early, it was already tough enough to attract the right people for positions in public housing and other agencies. But the need for public housing grows every day, and along with it comes an increased focus on hiring and retention.

Public Housing Authority (PHA) budgets are flush with money to add new hires. As the pace of hiring picks up, it will be more critical than ever for PHAs to be savvy about how they share their mission and culture as ways to attract applicants, especially those of Millennial age, who are driven by a sense of purpose. of how your agency helps the community goes a long way toward getting the attention of people who might want to be part of it. Taking a bit of time to post on Facebook or LinkedIn could pay off later.

Agencies are also focusing on keeping the employees they already have, bracing for the resignations to continue. According to a recent survey from the MissionSquare Research Institute, state and local government employees want higher salary and better benefits (52%), nearly half (47%) are experiencing burnout, and more than one-third (36%) desire a better work-life balance. Many are looking to leave government employment altogether. In the PHA space, departures of IT and financial staff are particularly painful as they leave behind gaps that can be difficult to fill.

But public agencies should not just let people walk out the door without a word. You may feel powerless, but a Gallup report indicates that over half of employees say their manager could have done something to prevent them from leaving. Experts say taking the time to connect and be empathetic with employees pays dividends in keeping up their morale (and keeping them on the team). Being flexible with work schedules, where possible, is another way to help stressed employees who might otherwise be looking for a position outside government that can be done remotely.

The PHA staffing situation is causing a lot of worry. There is some good news, though: your PHA software vendor can help fill in the gaps and alleviate some of the pain of staffing shortages and onboarding. Depending on the offering, the vendor will offer tools like Learning Management courses and a support portal with on-demand videos to help with onboarding new hires. Some vendors offer live webinars on a regular basis that are good for new hires and for training existing people who are filling new roles. A good vendor will also offer on-demand services for special roles such as “accountant-on-call” to fill gaps in financial administration.

There is no question: Staffing issues are among the most urgent concerns facing PHAs today. But as you’re looking for creative solutions, be sure to check with your housing software vendor. They should have resources to lessen the pain.

 

 

 

 

 

How Do I Choose the Best Public Housing Authority Software?

Best Public Housing Authority Software

It’s hard for public housing authorities (PHAs) to effectively manage the complex regulations, multiple subsidy types, and day-to-day demands necessary for providing affordable housing. But, by using the best public housing authority software, these tasks can become much more manageable. The right software means focusing on automation and having access to the data and the tools you need, and it means building a well-connected community. This post will help guide agencies as they step through the process of selecting the best public housing authority software.

Establish Your Team

The first thing you want to do is put together a strong team that can flesh out the technology goals for your PHA. Make sure your team is comprised of key leaders from the areas that will have the most impact on the software. This should include project sponsors, subject matter experts, and some technical experts.

Utilization of the Software

Your project team should be able to pull together a chart or document that will detail the goals, risks, and milestones for the project. They should be able to determine the functionality of the PHA software and what you need it to do by determining your PHA’s daily tasks. This will play a significant role when it comes to finalizing software options.

Budget

The budget is an important factor and the PHA productivity software you select should be within your budget. That also includes the number of licenses you will need, so the project team should also determine who or how many people will need to use the software. Be sure to also consider implementation and training costs.

Research Vendors

The project team should do due diligence when it comes to finalizing the list of software vendors. If the software doesn’t fit the needs of the PHA, that helps to eliminate that vendor from the long list. Compliance is key and well-designed software can go a long way in ensuring that your PHA is HUD compliant. Some things your project team may want to consider include:

  • Are there different layers of compliance for HUD, Public Housing, and Tax Credit programs?
  • Does the vendor have a dedicated HUD specialist?
  • Is fully automated tenant certification processing for a variety of compliance programs included?
  • Is there a waitlist module that deals with turnover processing and is it designed to ensure units are offered only to eligible households?
  • How does a vendor secure a PHA’s data?

These are just some of the questions the team needs to ask. Some other important things to consider during the due diligence process are:

Length of Time in Business

It’s always good to know how long a vendor has been in business serving the affordable housing space. This aspect helps speak to the stability of the company and software. Another good item to evaluate is how many employees does the business has, and what are their roles. Maintenance and support are critical for any support purchase, so you’ll want to know how the vendor handles this responsibility.

You expect the public housing software you purchase to be around for a while. That means the software should continue to meet upcoming needs through regular updates. If the vendor has been around for a while, they’ve likely done a ton of software updates. Look at how their software has evolved over the years. That gives a good indication of their ability to keep up with the demands and needs of the industry.

Software Functionality

Can the software under consideration do everything you’ve already determined you need it to do? If not, can it be upgraded or is there the ability for custom programming? What is the future outlook of the software? What is the vision for the software from the vendor’s perspective? You want to ensure the functionality of the software meets your intentions.

To know for sure if the software meets your intentions, ask for a demo of the product. You should be able to see most of the functionality working on their application. They should be able to walk you through some of the key functions you have implied you need. Using mock data, they should be able to generate the type of reports you need. If so, this is a good indication that the software can work for your company, even if it needs tweaking.

The important thing is to ensure the vendor knows your needs for your PHA. So be prepared during the demo to take good notes and ask the right questions. It’s up to them to show you they can meet them.

Training

Ensure the vendor has a clear plan for training your staff that includes multiple modes for training. Documentation should be available in different forms — manuals, videos, web-based, etc. Set out clear goals for the training and ask to see the documentation before training. With hybrid situations being more of the norm, ensure that training takes place remotely and on-site to ensure the software functions as it should, regardless of where the staff is working from.

Looking for new public housing authority software? We’d love to chat with you. Schedule a demo today! 

PIC-NG is coming – Are you ready?

PIC-NG

Emphasys Consulting works with many PHAs, and we have performed years of Voucher Management System (VMS) reporting for their respective Housing Choice Voucher Programs (HCVP). We also have been engaged by clients to assist with HUD’s Quality Assurance Division (QAD) audits of the HCVP and VMS reporting. In our many years of experience, we have routinely found that many PHAs struggle to maintain the VMS reporting category and the tenant Voucher type accurately. This means that both VMS and PIC reporting is not correct.

We’ve been hearing from HUD that PIC-NG is coming and, although the release of PIC-NG is currently a little behind schedule, it will be here very soon, and it will be replacing VMS reporting.

So, what does this mean?

HUD uses the VMS reporting system to perform what they refer to as Cash Management, meaning that PHAs receive their funding from HUD based on the information that is entered into HUD’s online VMS system.

When HUD replaces the PHA manually entered VMS reporting requirement, they will replace it by using the Tenant Characteristics Report (HUD Form 50058) data that is transmitted each month to the HUD PIC system to determine both the voucher count by voucher increment type and your expenses in order to determine your funding.

We are expecting that, upon implementation of PIC-NG, there will be a period of uncertainty in data accuracy requiring reconciliation to get PIC-NG information accurate. During this reconciliation process, we don’t know how HUD will determine your funding which we know will complicate matters and potentially delay funding.

Emphasys Consulting would like to help you ensure the highest level of accuracy of your 50058 data now, so your PIC-NG implementation experience is as smooth as possible.

Contact Emphasys Consulting today!

GASB 87 – Capital Leases: Are you ready for the changes to lease accounting?

Effective for fiscal years starting on or after July 1, 2021, all leases (with certain exceptions) will become Capital Leases if they have a term greater than 12 months. GASB 87 applies to both the lessee and the lessor. The determining factors are many and varied, including lease term; right to use/sole control; total of the lease payments as compared to your capitalization threshold; and the type of lease. The changes can require items to be maintained as a part of your fixed assets with an offsetting liability and either amortized or depreciated accordingly. Footnote disclosures are required.

Since the audited financial statements of your organization also include comparative prior year financial statements, GASB 87 requires retroactive implementation of the pronouncement for reporting purposes which includes the restatement of the financials for the prior year in the first year of GASB 87 implementation’s audit report.

The process to perform the implementation of this pronouncement is intricate and detailed and the need to perform the work accurately in a comprehensive well-documented fashion is imperative.

Emphasys Consulting can assist you with the implementation of GASB 87, the analysis and documentation, adjusting entries for both the current and prior year. We also can do the analysis to determine if, based on your leasing experience and plans, an update to your capitalization policy is appropriate.

Contact Emphasys Consulting today!

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Emphasys Is Certified FedRAMP High Authorization

FedRAMP High

As an innovative developer of software designed for Public Housing Authorities (PHA), Emphasys shows its commitment to the industry through the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program’s (FedRAMP) High Authorization recognition of their hosting platform. This is the top honor available through FedRAMP. High Authorization is a marker of secure, industry-leading systems that are appropriate for the most sensitive data. Learn more about FedRAMP’s High Authorization as well as how Emphasys can help your PHA remain secure.


What Is FedRAMP High Authorization?

The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program focuses on standardizing security measures for cloud-based data storage used by government entities. Poor data security, digital crime, and hacking all pose a major threat to today’s society. Government agencies of all sizes, from municipal to federal, have been the unfortunate targets of cybercrime. FedRAMP aims to secure our information with regulation, oversight, and robust standards.


FedRAMP’s High Authorization recognizes safe practices used for the most sensitive data. This category of data includes high-stakes information often associated with law enforcement, emergency response, finance, and public health. However, High Authorization information includes any system where the loss of data integrity, access, or confidentiality will cause adverse effects for either operations, assets, or citizens. Public Housing Authorities work with private, sensitive information and as such, are covered by the High Authorization umbrella.

Why Do Public Housing Authorities Need High Security?

On the most basic level, PHAs require high digital security because they work with personal and financial information. Most PHA clients must provide Protected Personal Information (PPI) to receive services. This personal data must be kept safe to protect clients from potential identity theft and fraud. PHAs handle financial transactions including paying rents, providing stipends, and issuing grant awards. Both incoming and outgoing accounts could be vulnerable to cyberattacks.

PHAs also carry out vital strategic projects that impact local infrastructure and quality of life. Lost or deleted data can put projects on hold. If hackers alter or change PHA information, work can be sabotaged. This poses a threat to both immediate and long-term security.

Finally, PHAs are uniquely vulnerable due to the political realities of operation. Many PHAs struggle for funding, always wanting to accomplish more than the budget allows. These agencies may receive budget cuts or lapses in funding during times of economic hardship. As a result, PHAs are often pressured to stretch their budget to the limit, accomplishing more with less. Information technology upgrades may be put off due to financial reasons. Unfortunately, this exposes PHAs to increased cyber risk.

What Does High Authorization Mean To Emphasys?

Emphasys is dedicated to providing safe, secure, and robust software solutions to Public Housing Authorities across the country. FedRAMP’s High Authorization is a welcomed validation of the range of products and services Emphasys makes available via our hosting platform. This recognition allows Emphasys to provide a timely response in the event your agency suffers a cyberattack. 

Thanks to cloud-based software, Emphasys offers its clients security and peace of mind should hackers breach their defenses. Cloud solutions allow for constant, reliable system backups. If your PHA is brought down by a ransomware attack, Emphasys can help restore full operations within days instead of weeks. Cloud systems also help you ensure your recovered data is valid.

The FedRAMP High Authorization of our cloud hosting software means that Emphasys is fully prepared to manage your agency’s most sensitive data. If your local PHA doesn’t already use a secure cloud-based system, it’s time to move to a higher level of security. An Emphasys software solution can protect your agency, your clients, and your community from the growing threat of cybercrime.

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Is Your PHA Considering a RAD Transition? Emphasys Consulting Can Help

RAD transition

Know the financial impacts to your COCC as your business model changes

When a PHA goes through the process of a RAD transition, most financial consultants are very much focused on the individual properties relative to their current and future state and making the “deals” work. Often, what is not discussed and what is not forecast is how the PHA business model will change and the financial implications of the transition to the organization’s operations.

Regardless of whether the conversion was to PBV or PBRA, Emphasys Consulting has had to come in after the fact and assist numerous Agencies that have found themselves unaware they would be facing a decrease in financial resources to maintain the Central Office Cost Center (COCC) operations. This has happened both during and after the transition process. Without having this knowledge in advance of critical transition milestones, PHAs can be left with no choice but to abruptly eliminate positions and consolidate roles, or to use their developer fees or sales proceeds to make ends meet rather than using those funds for planned future affordable housing development.

At Emphasys we believe it is imperative that PHAs currently considering, or in the midst of, a RAD transition need to have a transition business plan that ensures there are no surprises on the impact that a RAD conversion can have on the PHA’s operations.

Emphasys Consulting can assist by performing a financial and strategic review of a PHA’s business model that highlights the various milestones along the way and that will drive important business decisions to assist with sustaining the longevity of your organization’s operations.

Contact Emphasys Consulting today…

Protecting Your PHA Against Fraud

Protecting Your PHA Against Fraud

Working for a public housing authority is a noble cause. Whether it be Section 8 housing or a HUD development, you are providing a service to those who need a little help with their housing situation. And no one expects that such a benevolent group could be capable of fraud, but sadly it happens, and it often goes undetected until it is too late. So, how can you go about protecting your PHA against fraud?

Fraud Can Happen Anywhere, to Anyone

In a small town in New England, such a fraudulent situation rocked the confidence of the townsfolk who have always trusted their local housing authority. The PHA manager was embezzling from tenants with the help of a resident that colluded with him to hide the infraction. He was stealing tenant rent payments, while at the same time erasing their names from the list of residents under the protection of the PHA. 

When the residents sought legal representation to fight forced evictions, they no longer had a paper trail, and thus, lost the case. This went on for a while until eventually the manager slipped up and both men were sent to jail for housing fraud. The town was devastated by the betrayal and the tenants had trouble trusting the housing authority after the incident.

What could have prevented this? After all, this was a manager. 

The first thing is oversight. Even the president of the United States has an oversight committee to keep his actions in check. So, why doesn’t a smaller agency under the umbrella of HUD also have its own oversight? Perhaps it is a budget issue. So, instead, it is up to the folks working in the PHA to keep each other honest and always be diligent and vigilant to the integrity of the office. 

People’s living situations, and often, their lives, are in your hands. It is up to you to keep their money and their livelihood safe. And this sort of thing happens more often than people realize. When it is easy to siphon excess funds or embezzle from the unknowing, someone will let their lesser demons talk them into it. And once that gate is open, it is hard to close. 

Removing Temptation

Vigilance is good, oversight is better, but the best tool to prevent fraud in your public housing agency is with software that keeps an eye on all money coming and going. It keeps your office staff honest, it keeps the residents honest, it cannot be tampered with and is easy to use for even the most technologically untalented folks.

One such program is a suite of software from Emphasys. Emphasys has taken the prevention of fraud and its passion for keeping good people safe and developed technology to help keep fraud at bay. Our proprietary system maintains a constant log of your tenants, their household living capacity, their finances, and lets the agency know if anything changes. 

It also holds office staff accountable for anything they miss. It provides a constant paper trail that catches any discrepancy with accuracy and efficiency. You will know right away if anything is amiss and be able to address it before it gets out of control. If the Agency in New England had used Emphasys, this terrible situation would never have happened.

Protecting Your PHA Against Fraud

If you manage a public housing authority, you need to add Emphasys to your tool belt of effective fraud prevention options. With Emphasys’ software solution, you will have a greater scope over what is happening in your community and the ability to send reports to auditors and authorities if anything seems less than above board. The Emphasys suite of products is designed to keep you and your residents in mind, 24/7.

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Emphasys Software Announces Partnership with the New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation

PEMBROKE PINES, FLAugust 2, 2021 – Emphasys Software (Emphasys), a leading provider of compliance-driven software designed to serve the needs of the nation’s public housing authorities, is proud to announce its partnership with New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s Housing Trust Fund Corporation (HTFC) and a successful launch of HTFC’s online waitlist lottery for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs) for New York City.

Comprised of multiple agencies operating across the entire state, the HTFC focuses on providing crucial services to New York State residents, including Section 8 housing, unique rental options, homebuyer programs for low-income residents, and a broad range of other services all of which are geared towards community development.

“As a statewide, multi-agency organization, our challenges are unique and our technology needs are no different,” explained Ruthanne Visnauskas, Commissioner / CEO of New York State Homes and Community Renewal. “Thankfully, Emphasys is providing the much-needed expertise and software solutions that are assisting our staff in administering HCR’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, which helps approximately 45,000 New York families and individuals live affordably in rental homes of their choosing.”

Commenting on the partnership and online waitlist opening project, Emphasys Software PHA’s GM / CEO, Dave Badun said, “I’m grateful for the trust that the HTFC has placed in us and am proud of how our teams came together to successfully execute on one of the largest waiting list openings in American history. Our technology registered a staggering number of applicants processing almost 372,000 completed applications seamlessly with the site serving over 16,000 applicants at one time.” He continued, “We are pleased that the HTFC chose to partner with Emphasys and are looking forward to continuing to help the HTFC fulfill their mission of serving New York State’s low-income residents.”

Emphasys Software’s suite of products for public housing authorities is one of the most robust in the industry. It includes support for Section 8, mobile inspections, property management, and an all-in-one service solution designed to manage and automate waiting lists, applicant information management, Rental Assistance Demonstration and the recertification process.

About Emphasys Software:

As a pioneer of enterprise software for public housing authorities, Emphasys has set the standard for innovative compliance-based business solutions since 1976. Emphasys’ software is used to help manage and house nearly one million families through over 200 of the nation’s leading, and many of the nation’s largest, public housing authorities. Emphasys offers a complete suite of enterprise software applications with service and support that automates business processes efficiently and effectively. Emphasys Software is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Constellation Software Inc. (TSX:CSU).