The Los Alamos County Finance Division’s recent changes in the way that they conduct business have paid off during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing staff to work remotely from home while still keeping finance operations running smoothly.
“Like many other employees, we began working at home in mid-March,” said CFO Helen Perraglio,”however, thanks to Enterprise Bank & Trust and the efforts of our accounts payable and procurement team, we were able to quickly implement electronic payments to vendors, eliminating the need for paper checks to be mailed. This change reduced the amount of time it takes to pay a vendor – decreasing payment times from 3-5 days down to 1-3 days.”
Perraglio said that the electronic payments capability was something that was “already in the works” prior to the pandemic, so moving up the timeline to proceed was straight-forward, but required a rapid response to implement successfully.
“We worked with Procurement in the early stages of the shutdown in March to offer vendors this option,” she said, adding that of 265 vendors contacted, 99 filed their enrollment forms in April and 77 others have completed the entire verification process to begin receiving electronic payments.
Perraglio said she credits her staff and the support of the County’s information management team for pulling together and implementing the on-line changes so quickly, despite having a majority of staff working remotely.
“I give my Accounts Payable, Procurement, and Payroll teams significant credit for their dedication and ability to adapt to the given situation and streamline our disbursement processes, all while working 96% remotely and maintaining operational needs,” she said.
Perraglio said that another significant accomplishment last month was moving nearly all of the County employees online to receive an electronic paycheck. Prior to the March shutdown, 96% of the employees received an electronic paycheck.
“By the end of May, we anticipate that all employees will receive an electronic paycheck,” she said, “It’s just one of many items that we have been working on recently. We’ve made great strides in becoming more paperless after implementing our new enterprise resource planning software last year, and COVID-19 just made this a higher priority.”
With the stay-at-home order, the County’s budget process also needed to move on line and be completed while working remotely. Perraglio remarked on the budget process and meetings that recently wrapped up with the Council in April as a prime example of the kind of teamwork and cooperation displayed by County staff during the COVID-19 emergency.
“Our Budget team guided the County through the adoption of a budget on-time, and primarily while working remotely – which took extraordinary efforts and is highly commendable given current circumstances,” she said. Council meetings took place using an on-line video conference software and option for citizens to e-mail comments during the meetings.
County staff have found creative ways to keep working and moving things forward, Perraglio said, adding that along with daily operations, new requirements for financial reporting have come forward, given the need to track costs or order emergency-specific supplies and services.
“Finance and Procurement have really maintained seamless business operations since the declaration of the COVID-19 emergency – with the use of technology and assistance from our Information Management team, and the overall commitment to address high-priority and emergency needs,” she said.
In addition, the Finance Division is working diligently with Human Resources to navigate all the new reporting requirements for the pandemic emergency, to ensure the County is in compliance with new regulations. They have worked closely with the County’s Emergency Manager Beverly Simpson and rolled out electronic tools and online meetings with all County Departments to maximize the County’s ability to claim expenditures that may be subject to federal reimbursement.
“This is a very fluid situation and it’s important that we participate and send information bi-weekly to the State’s Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies to stay on top of COVID-19 reporting,” she said.
Perraglio praised the teamwork and cooperation occurring among the various departments, even while working remotely.
“The County-wide efforts to maintain operations, implement new processes, and overall collaboration during this emergency have been remarkable, and we have to thank all of our highly dedicated county staff and all the work that went into making our technology investments really come through for us during this challenging time,” she said.