The Electronic Household Energy Automated Technology (eHEAT) software will help EAP and WAP service providers manage data and streamline program functions. The eHEAT software is an integrated system consolidating the business processes under EAP and WAP into a robust web application. The new system will be used to provide program and administrative services to eligible state citizen and will help:
Streamline the payment process
Share necessary customer information with partners
Share information and reports regarding program activity and outcomes
Prioritize the neediest households
Improve analysis and planning capabilities tools
Develop tools to measure the consistency and effectiveness of programs
The eHEAT software is a web-based, real time system, so applications will be entered directly onto the system as they are processed. Each step of the application processing will happen centrally. The software will maintain a record of these steps.
Applications will be available for DOC to send to MAPS (the Minnesota Accounting and Procurement System) for payment when the service provider has given it a status of "payable."
EAP 2005 will start on Oct. 1, 2004; applications will be mailed in early August. The DOC will send each agency its file of names and addresses as available on CLIPR to be checked or verified before applications are mailed. Applications will be mailed on a schedule by application type and by agency. The schedule will be available to service providers by the first week of June.
The eHEAT software will accept a location address and a mailing address for each application as well as a name and phone number for a "primary contact" person who is different from the applicant, for example an adult child who wants notification of an award.
EAP is a dynamic program and the eHEAT software has been designed to address a multitude of possible changes that may be necessary throughout the year. Involving agency representatives in the planning process assures that issues like this get addressed. Just about everything related to entering an application can be changed or updated.
Changes such as a wrong vendor number can be changed easily before payment is made. After a payment is made, the refund process will go into effect.
There will also be a process for reviewing files before they are made "Payable." Payable is a status that tells the Fiscal people in the Department of Commerce to send the payment request to the Department of Finance for payment.
The eHEAT software will allow for closing or terminating a file, in the case of a household moving out of state or if a single household is deceased. The software also includes a transfer process for easily working between agencies to transfer households that have moved. The paper file will still have to be sent to the new agency, though.
The process will be user friendly but secure; Service Providers will decide which system users should be able to view certain information, and which ones can enter or change it.
Rollover applications will be available. The decision not to have rollover applications would be a program decision, not an eHEAT decision. On a date determined by the State, the "rollover" will occur so that the records for the next year can be entered, records for the current year are available, and records for the past two or three years can be viewed.
The main reason for rollovers is to reduce the burden of completing an application for households with no or minimal, inconsequential changes. If some agencies have a need to start over with "fresh" data, that issue should be discussed fully with their Field Representatives. The reasons for providing pre-applications for all households in a service area would have to justify adding the application burden to the agency's rollover applicants.
All information that is currently on the 2002, 2003 and 2004 CLIPR's will be rolled over into the eHEAT software. Additionally, some additional data exists that is available locally but not on the CLIPR; if it is determined that the information is needed, a transfer process for 2004 data only will be developed.
Energy Assistance data is and will be protected under Minnesota Data Privacy laws. Availability of household data to state staff will be about the same as it is now under the CLIPR. Energy Assistance, Weatherization and select fiscal staff will have view-only access to application data with eHEAT. Service Providers will have access to application information and the data assigned to their agency, with the ability to assign levels of authority within the software. Vendors will have access only to certain data about their customers, also with the ability to assign levels of authority within the software. These changes will require that the data sharing permissions included on the application be revised.
eHEAT will send the award letters as well as most other written communication needed with households about their applications. There is some flexibility for agencies to assume responsibility for letters about incomplete applications.
eHEAT will need to migrate legacy data for the new system. Agencies will help cleanse data to prepare for migration. The data types are: Household (3 Years), Consumption, Vendor Information, and Contractor. EAP and WAP information for the current year and the past two years (2002-2004) will be rolled over into the new system from the CLIPR. Additionally, some additional data exists that is available locally but not on the CLIPR; if it is determined that the information is needed, a transfer process for 2004 data only will be developed.
The eHEAT data will be used in much the same way that CLIPR data used now: to serve households, to monitor agencies, to report to the funding sources, and to evaluate programs. Service providers will have access to many reports on the system, as well as the ability to download information and create their own reports. Service providers will have read access to all application data and write access only to the data assigned to their agency, with the ability to assign levels of authority access within the software. Vendors will have access to certain data about their customers.
Because all reports are contained within the same central system, local reports can be accessed at any time. Most of the information will be available by service provider area just by clicking a tab or a button. A few reports, such as the EAP Weekly, will include statewide data.
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eHEAT will not track down any payments. This will remain a policy/monitoring activity. Vendor monitoring will continue to be a responsibility of the Service Provider. Vendors will still be responsible for assuring that the payment is assigned to the correct account and for notifying the agency when there is a problem. In the case of a refund because of incorrect name, the agency will follow up. The Service Provider will be notified of the situation through the Work Queue or by email.
There is always a fine line to walk between consistency and allowing enough flexibility to serve households fairly and effectively. eHEAT is attempting to walk that line. Many of the concerns expressed in the MADD reports related to how policy was applied locally. The eHEAT software will not control many of those situations.
A centralized system can improve the uniformity of processes and policies. It is true that EAP has shared a common data system and so has unified many of its processes in the past, and the new eHEAT software should enhance this ability. For WAP there will be some new processes that will create consistencies in program policy.
Additionally, the eHEAT software should improve monitoring and measuring which will improve the state's ability to evaluate program activity and provide assistance to correct inconsistencies.