Cooperative for Human Services closely follows its twelfth Guiding Principle, “Work in partnership with others to maximize resources and alleviate duplication of effort” by continually seeking out new technologies to achieve its goals. Currently, the company serves as Representative Payee for over 150 individuals in its Residential, Individual Support Services and Guardianship programs. This requires CHS to manage, monitor, and document by hand, all spending of each individual’s monthly Social Security funds, other income and monetary gifts.
Historically, this financial process had been a de-centralized process monitored by field managers responsible for oversight of individual funds through direct access to the person’s bank account. On a regular basis, managers accessed and distributed spending funds to each individual, reconciled receipts and provided education to the individuals served about positive budgeting skills.
After researching new developments in the financial management field, Glen Charney*, Chief Financial Officer, identified the PEX card system as a way to consolidate and centralize funds management in the CHS main office, while reducing cash on-hand and alleviate processing of paper receipts in the field. With the PEX system, record keeping transitioned to the main office, managers no longer physically visited banks to act as signers for individual’s bank accounts, and the process saved significant time. The new system empowered individuals to manage their personal finances more independently, while also providing a higher level of security and accountability for funds.
The PEX card system looks and works like a credit card. It allows CHS to fund a card for each individual on a weekly basis based on their unique financial goals. The card is reset each week to the maximum allocation and if an individual wishes to make a larger, one-time purchase for items such as clothing or furniture, the amount can be increased above the individuals’ weekly spending maximum. This flexibility feature was especially important for ease of use. The card can be used anywhere credit cards are accepted and removes the need to retain large amounts of cash-on-hand in people’s homes where it can be subject to loss. Since credit cards are more prominently used in the community than cash, this also helps individuals prepare to live in a cashless society.
For those situations where credit cards are not accepted, managers request cash for the special purchase or event. Weekly receipts for each card are automatically generated by PEX and using those records, the CHS Finance Department pays the monthly PEX bill from each person’s fund. The company can more efficiently monitor spending for individuals and provide feedback on financial trends to the managers. There are additional controls included in the system such as the ability to restrict the amount spent at one particular store, if needed, to ensure that funds are spent appropriately and to support the individual’s success in learning money management skills.
The PEX card system has been in use in the Residential Services programs since January and will be implemented in the Individual Supports Services and Guardianship Programs later this year. To date, the program has greatly streamlined the process for funding individuals served, and has also significantly improved record keeping. Shifting the financial responsibilities from field managers to the Finance Department has allowed the managers more time to meet the needs of the people served rather than divert attention to the administrative function. It is a win-win situation for everyone.
*Content contributed by Glen Charney, Chief Financial Officer, Cooperative for Human Services, Inc.