– Submitted by: Sherri Heller, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, ACS Government Solutions- State Human Services Solutions

The fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina brings back memories of a natural disaster and human tragedy many of us witnessed only from a distance– on our television screens or computer monitors.

But a number of dedicated people from ACS, A Xerox Company, were there, playing an critical role in helping those whose lives changed when the storm devastated the Gulf Coast.

Katrina displaced more than 1.2 million people – many of whom depended on child support checks from the Louisiana Department of Social Services (DSS). Because ACS was the state’s child support services provider, DSS quickly called on us for a strategy to get payments to custodial parents whose whereabouts were unknown.

As the tragedy unfolded in New Orleans, even personally impacting some of our employees, we put citizen service first to ensure DSS could continue distributing payments to displaced families.

With the State’s child support call center disrupted by the storm, we first found a way to redirect calls to a single operational circuit through Houston.

Then, our people traveled to the Houston Astrodome and to Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, setting up information booths to locate custodial parents and help them get their child support payments.

These efforts helped DSS deliver 100,000 child support checks to evacuees.

As the relief effort escalated, so did the needs of the State as well as citizens. DSS asked us to establish a call center to provide information for displaced services. Within hours, we opened an around-the-clock customer service center that provided referrals for food stamps, missing persons, Social Security benefits, Medicaid and other assistance. Within the first three days, the center received 45,000 telephone calls, most of which were handled by our customer service staff — without the help of an automated voice response system.

In the five years that have passed, we continue to be proud of our work in helping those who needed it the most, as the result of an event whose magnitude we hope to never see again. But it doesn’t take circumstances like these to bring out the best in ACS, as each day we are dedicated to looking for ways to help our clients meet their challenges, big or small.

–Sherri Heller, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, ACS Government Solutions- State Human Services Solutions