Although changes to program rules often require federal authorization through a waiver or state plan amendment, agencies and CBOs have autonomy to make other policy changes that will have an immediate impact on their staff and families in need.
Helping staff simplify existing workflows and improve service delivery through revisions to existing policies and procedures are changes that any government or non-profit can enact without external approval. Often these are small changes that can have a big impact.
In the months and years of recovery ahead, changes to policy and procedures made during the current crisis will likely need to continue long-term – with ongoing adjustments – in order to meet a continuing demand for services. Anticipating client and staff needs now will help to respond to changes in the long-term.
Best practices for this play
What can be done quickly
Improve contactless interactions with individuals & families
- Implement policies to limit and redesign in-person interactions between:
- Staff and staff
- Staff and applicants/beneficiaries
- Applicants/beneficiaries to each other (e.g., office lobbies)
- Adopt policies that reduce the need for paper verifications
- Increase use of electronic data sources
- Allow self-attestation
- Encourage greater use of collateral contacts
- Re-use verifications for multiple criteria (e.g., use paycheck stubs as proof of income as well as residency).
- Shift enrollment processes to focus on no or low touch approaches
- Identify all client - agency interactions that were previously only available in-person
- Determine alternative avenues for service delivery (online, phone, fax, etc). If a task can only be done in-person, consider removing the requirement altogether (at least temporarily).
- Use digital channels to communicate (text messaging, email, phone, etc). Communicate with clients more frequently to reassure and provide updates so they do not feel the need to see someone in-person.
- Empower staff to use their discretion to approve cases, not deny applicants
- Conduct interviews on the same day an application is submitted
- Create a simplified intake form that can be used for multiple programs so applicants only need to provide information one time.
- Allow for more opt-out rather than opt-in options
- Example: If an applicant provides a mobile phone #, opt them in for text messages and provide an easy option to opt-out or ask for their consent by replying to the initial message.
- Revise consent language so applicants can agree to have their information shared if doing so would be beneficial to them.
- Review and revise policies that are unnecessary
- Example: Requiring applicants to authenticate their identity before an intake form or application can be entered into the system.
Re-evaluate measurements for success
- Revise performance measures to focus on outcomes such as:
- Reduced application processing times
- Reduced # of touchpoints needed
- Reduced # of procedural denials
- Reduced % of churn
- Accept a temporary increase in error rates
- Increase over-issuance amount
- Postpone quality control, audits, or routine maintenance
- Analyze call center/web data to help reduce call volume
- Review common questions or search terms to determine what information callers are seeking. Use that information to streamline operations, improve communications, etc
- Review where people fall off in the process and simplify the user experience
- Review usage patterns (ex: high/low volume of callers) to adjust staffing and resource availability
What to aim for long term
- Keep momentum by setting new standards and upending old paradigms
- Do not assume you can or must return to pre-crisis processes
- Challenge all policy or operating assumptions.
- Create a dedicated, multi-disciplinary team to focus long-term on re-designing and improving service delivery from end to end.
- Conduct an in-depth review of operating costs before and after policy or operations changes to document outcomes
- Simplify policy and legal language in operations manual, notices, forms using plain language.
- Continue expanding self-service options for beneficiaries
- Continue to identify specific tasks or steps in a process that can be automated or eliminated
- COVID-19 SNAP Policy + Delivery Memo, Code for America, April 2020
- Facilitating Remote Application Assistance for SNAP During COVID-19: Recommendations for States and Application Assisters, Benefits Data Trust, 2020
- Chatbots respond to COVID-19 (NASCIO)
- Nearly 75% of states launched chatbots to aid pandemic response (StateScoop)
- Delivery-Driven Policy, Code for America, September 2019
- Alluma Checklists
Related categoriesData management Document handling Interviews Remote Renewals
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