How Feds Think Data Can Buy Time for People Suffering a Financial Shock
Two new federal programs are aiming to use technology to help individuals and families who suffer an unexpected financial shock to access government benefits more quickly. The projects, part of the Biden administration’s major customer experience improvement program, are focused on speeding up the process of verifying income to ensure that eligible citizens get benefits as quickly as possible.
The challenge of a financial shock
When families or individuals experience a sudden, unexpected expense – such as a car breaking down or an unexpected medical bill – they can find themselves in financial difficulty. While there are government programs designed to bridge the gap and help people in need, the slow pace of due diligence can render these lifelines untimely and ineffective. And when government assistance doesn’t come fast enough, people may receive help from other avenues, including predatory payday loans that can make matters worse.
The federal response
Two projects within the Biden administration’s customer experience improvement program are designed to address the timeliness issue by tapping new databases to speed up income verification and by setting up a platform for benefits administrators to share best practices. These projects are part of a broader effort to improve Americans’ experiences with government services and help people who experience a financial shock access benefits more quickly.
The financial shock projects are part of a set of nine Life Experience projects, which span a range of benefits programs, helping families with newborns, veterans, and retiring workers. The financial shock projects are focused on identifying existing datasets and policies that govern them. The aim is to automate as much of the process as possible so that backend IT systems can quickly and accurately confirm people’s income status and get the process moving.
The federal government is focusing on automating the process of verification by breaking down silos between governmental systems to increase the number of datasets that any one benefits program can access. By expanding the use of existing federal data, officials hope to speed up the process of income verification. For instance, data collected and maintained by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) could be used for verifying applications for benefit programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Another project, the Accelerator, is being developed to provide tools for improving procurement or development of state benefits technology. The Accelerator will help overcome barriers such as policy and privacy concerns, and help states improve the quality of their data ecosystem so that states can consistently use data in more integrated ways.Leaders responsible for the program believe that if policy and privacy barriers can be broken down, benefit programs can even share the results of income verification checks, allowing citizens to apply for a suite of relevant assistance programs through a single application.
- The Accelerator program is being developed to provide tools for improving procurement or development of state benefits technology for SNAP participants.
- The project is aimed at improving the accuracy of benefit administration and distribution, and reducing errors in the benefits process.
The federal government is working to streamline the process of income verification to make it easier for people experiencing a financial shock to access government benefits quickly. By automating the process and breaking down siloes between governmental systems, officials hope to speed up the verification process by using existing federal data to improve the quality of state data ecosystems.
Overall, the federal government is taking proactive steps to address the timeliness issue in benefit distribution by investing in technological solutions. The focus on data automation and breaking down siloes between agencies is a positive step that could help streamline the benefits administration process. For people who need these programs to help them through tough times, a faster and more efficient process could be a lifesaver and help them overcome financial burdens.