Topic

Applying + Enrolling

Burdensome application and enrollment processes can stand in the way of eligible applicants receiving benefits they qualify for.

There are steps delivery agencies can take to enhance and streamline these services without compromising eligibility integrity.

Enrolling in benefits should lead to relief, not additional burdens.

When benefit seekers are applying for public assistance programs, it is often during one of the most difficult moments of their lives. Lengthy and onerous applications can frustrate already stressed and overwhelmed applicants. At the same time, agencies have their hands tied by conforming to legal eligibility and compliance.

However, some agencies are finding innovative ways to improve these processes, including using human-centered design to cut down on application length, implementing plain language and multilingual translation of application questions, and integrating enrollment across benefits. These practices not only reduce burdens for both applicants and agencies, but they can also increase uptake. Here, find resources including human-centered redesign case studies and guidance on training your agency staff to take on these kinds of projects.

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Vermont: Piloting A Document Uploader For Benefit Eligibility

To verify their eligibility for public assistance, low-income Vermont residents were forced to either physically visit one of only 12 Economic Services Division Offices or use the mail to submit documents. This delayed the application process and hindered residents' ability to access benefits.

Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University
Case Study

Minnesota: Rolling Out an Integrated Benefits Application in Stages

Minnesota posed a number of unique challenges towards efficient service delivery of public benefits. In addition to a fragmented application process, each of Minnesota's 87 counties maintained their own systems for managing assistance programs. Further issues stemmed from Minnesota's high levels of racial disparities, 11 tribal nations, and disproportionately large refugee population.

Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University
Case Study

Minnesota COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program Application

Minnesota's COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program offered relief for people unable to pay rent, mortgage and/or utilities because of the pandemic. HousingLink knew the state lacked central access for emergency housing assistance. They saw an opportunity to partner with Software for Good and create an assistance portal on quick turnaround.

Software for Good
Case Study

Learning Towards an API Standard for WIC

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) has been found to be very effective at improving nutrition for recipients and their children. Despite its effectiveness, only 45.6% of eligible pregnant people participated in 2022; the in-person appointment that starts the WIC application process is a common barrier to enrollment. The largely closed WIC management information systems (MIS) make interoperability, information sharing, and additions of new tools or functionality difficult. An Application Programming Interface (API) standard for WIC that enables existing systems to more easily connect with outside tools could be used to increase program access.

Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University
Case Study

Project Re:form — Redesigning Michigan's Assistance Application

Michigan had the longest public benefits application in the country. The application was fragmented across five different benefits programs and contained 64 pages, 1,000 overlapping questions, and convoluted language. These complications burdened Michigan residents and forced agency officials to waste valuable time correcting errors.

Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University
Case Study

Reimagining the Role of Real Estate in Benefits Delivery

When Oklahoma Human Services (OKDHS) set out to improve how they serve clients and support their workforce, they identified their physical spaces as an area in which modernization could improve accessibility and quality of service. OKDHS buildings tended to be large and securitized, with sizable waiting rooms and limited space for privacy; this set-up did not meet the needs of service users. At the same time, OKDHS was accruing high occupancy and maintenance costs due to its large real estate presence, which included many buildings that were not being used fully.

Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation
Case Study

Retooling Find Local Help Using Human-centered Design

Find Local Help provides a list of free experts who can help users sign up for health insurance. The system asked additional questions before the results screen to give the backend system time to complete the search. Users received a “No Results” notification – instead of loading indicators – during this step.

Ad Hoc
Case Study

Missouri: Understanding Current Problems and Opportunities to Inform Priority Setting in Public Assistance

The Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) delivers public assistance to more than one million Missouri residents annually. Each benefit program has a different application, resulting in a combined 63 pages of application forms and case backlogs. Beneficiaries and caseworkers are overwhelmed by the complicated and confusing nature of this process.

Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University
Case Study

MyFile NYC: Establishing Eligibility for Public Benefits Through Document Management Services

Structural obstacles in communication, transportation, and documentation represent some of the biggest barriers to public benefit access for people experiencing homelessness. Unhoused individuals may lack a regular address where important documents and correspondence can be mailed, or may have difficulty applying for benefit programs because they lack documents that establish their eligibility, such as proof of income or identity. Centers and clinics where people can apply for benefits may also have limited capacity to accommodate applicants’ circumstances.

Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University
Case Study

MIBridges: Making Online Benefit Websites Work More Effectively

Millions of Michigan residents receive public assistance through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). Half of them tried to apply for and access these benefits online. However, the existing application was not mobile-friendly and it required more than 45 minutes to complete. This created delays and frustrating experiences for residents and agency staff.

Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University
Case Study

The “Income Passport”: Income Verification for Gig Workers in Louisiana and Alabama

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government made gig workers countrywide eligible for unemployment benefits for the first time through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) programs. These benefits helped expand the social safety net during a time of crisis, but states were not equipped to quickly process the volume of applications they received. Overall, this strained state capacity and, especially early in the pandemic, increased avenues for fraud. Many eligible gig workers also struggled to provide the necessary income information, and income verification issues resulted in delayed or denied benefits for gig workers. State workforce agencies needed to find ways to efficiently make sense of and verify income from gig work, which can be generated from multiple sources at multiple times, sometimes even within the same day.

Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University
Case Study
Alluma: One-x-Connection

Alluma: One-x-Connection

Alluma is a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting people to help. They are reimagining the way technology is used to enable people to have agency to connect to opportunity. For over 20 years, Alluma has been providing digital solutions and consulting services that assist individuals, non-profit organizations, and various state and county agencies with eligibility determination and enrollment into various social benefit programs. They also connect people to local community resources. Through their human-centered, modular solutions, they support cross-benefit eligibility screening and enrollment in 45 counties and two states. Alluma has screened over 10 million individuals for eligibility and submitted more than 67 million program applications. In 2020, Alluma merged with One Degree to expand their ability to connect people to community-based services in addition to public benefits.

Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University
Case Study
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