Today, families in need of child care assistance, health
coverage and food assistance often have to apply to three different agencies,
providing pretty much the same information and documents to each of them. All
the while, different eligibility workers handle this information to determine the
family’s eligibility separately for each program. Placing such redundant and
unnecessary paperwork burdens on families and workers is neither an efficient
or effective use of limited public resources, A new initiative that I blogged
about last fall aims to change that: the Ford Foundation’s “Work Support
Strategies: Streamlining Access, Strengthening Families.”
This week, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, New
Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, and South Carolina received the
good news, that they were chosen to receive $250,000 planning grants. Notably,
states applying for grants had to secure the approval of their Governors and
the participation of key agency heads, generally a mix of those overseeing
Medicaid, children’s health insurance, food stamps, and child care subsidies.
During the first year, the nine states will assess their
current operations and develop plans for testing new ways of doing business.
States that demonstrate they can execute those plans will compete for
three-year implementation grants of up to $500,000 per year. The Urban
Institute will evaluate the initiative and provide project direction in
partnership with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), which is
leading technical assistance to the states.
In conjunction with the grant announcement, our friends
at CBPP released a very extensive report that addresses the issues and
opportunities of this ambitious initiative: Improving the Delivery of Key Work
Supports: Policy & Practice Opportunities at A Critical Moment. The report
looks at the key areas of policy, procedure, and data utilization, illustrating
why coordination among programs is critical and how to overcome its inherent
challenges. Moving from theory to practice, it provides a catalogue of specific
options states can pursue and reviews some best practice. Happy reading to all
you policy and process wonks!
We look forward to following the progress of this project
and sharing lessons learned.