The Application Process For TANF, Food Stamps, Medicaid, and SCHIP. Site Visit Data Collection


Urban Institute researchers visited all of the six sites between June 2001 and January 2002. The primary source of information was in-person, semi-structured discussions with welfare agency staff knowledgeable about and/or directly involved in some aspect of the application process. Using semi-structured guides, team members conducted in-person discussions with bilingual and monolingual English-speaking staff in the following positions:

  • Front-desk intake/receptionists workers,
  • Pre-screeners,
  • Eligibility workers,
  • Eligibility supervisors,
  • Program administrators and managers,
  • Outreach workers,
  • Workers who conduct TANF or other program orientations,
  • Workers who conduct pre-eligibility home visits or other types of verification,
  • Staff responsible for non-citizen eligibility, language access, and community outreach, and
  • Interpreters under agency contract.

In addition to agency staff, we held discussions with staff at community-based organizations (CBOs) and other community groups familiar with immigrant and limited English proficient applicants' experiences with public benefit applications. The CBOs and other community groups involved in the study are engaged in program outreach, the provision of interpreter services, or assistance for immigrants and limited English speakers to navigate the benefit application process. Follow-up telephone discussions with key respondents were conducted as well as additional phone discussions with new respondents as needed. (See Exhibit A-2 for a summary list of agencies/offices participating in site visit discussions for this study.)

To supplement in-person discussions, we conducted a limited number of observations of reception area, front-desk, application screening, and interview procedures at the welfare offices and other application sites. The purpose of these observations was to enrich our understanding of the application process as gleaned from discussions with agency staff. Observations were only conducted after voluntary agreement was obtained from both agency staff and applicants. In addition, a total of seven group discussions were held with non-citizens and other limited English speakers who had applied for one or more of the study's focal programs within the past year.

Of the six sites chosen, the three smallest sites — Raleigh, Arlington, and Sedalia — each have one central welfare agency (some with satellite offices or out-stationed staff), and the site visits covered most, if not all, major application locations. In the larger sites — New York, Dallas, and Seattle — there are multiple welfare offices providing application and eligibility determination services for TANF, food stamps, Medicaid and SCHIP to individuals residing in those jurisdictions. In these larger sites, we visited at least two public benefit office locations that were identified as either making special efforts to accommodate immigrant applicants; serving multiple language groups (including less common language groups), or serving primarily one non-English language group (usually Spanish). In all sites, discussions were also held with a small sample of staff responsible for conducting application assistance and/or eligibility determination interviews in locations other than public welfare offices (e.g., hospitals, health providers, non-profit social service agencies, and, in New York City, Facilitated Enrollers.) The final selection of offices and other application locations visited was made in consultation with program administrators and knowledgeable CBO staff.

Exhibit A-2:
List of Agencies and Other Organizations
Participating in Site Visit Discussions

Arlington (VA):

Arlington County Department of Human Services

  • Arlington Free Clinic
  • Arlington Pediatric Center
  • Northern Virginia Area Health Education Center
  • Arlington Diocese Office of Resettlement
  • Northern Virginia Regional Planning Commission
  • Children's Health Care Connection
  • Hispanic Committee of Northern Virginia

Dallas (TX):


Texas Department of Human Services

  • Office of Immigration and Refugee Affairs,
  • Government Relations
  • Civil Rights Department
  • Office of the General Counsel
  • Texas Works Program Administration

Center for Public Policy Priorities
Texas Immigrant and Refugee Coalition
Texas Association of Community Action Agencies


Texas Department of Human Services

  • Ross Avenue Office, Dallas
  • New York Avenue Office, Arlington

Parkland Health and Hospital System, Eligibility and Patient Registration
Children's Medical Center, SCHIP Outreach
Work Advantage, Fort Worth

Community Council of Greater Dallas
Catholic Charities of Dallas, Inc.
The Hmong American Planning and Development Center, Inc.
East Dallas Counseling Center, Inc.
The Dallas Concilio

New York City (NY):

New York City Human Resources Administration

  • Office of Refugee and Immigrant Affairs
  • Eligibility Verification and Review Office
  • Refugee and Immigrant Job Center
  • Bay Ridge Job Center
  • New Utrecht Food Stamp Office
  • Medical Assistance Programs
  • Paperless Office System

New York Immigration Coalition
Make the Road by Walking, Inc.
Health Plus
Children's Aid Society

Raleigh (NC):

Wake County Department of Human Services

  • Family and Children's Medicaid/Food Assistance/Work First
  • North Carolina Employment Services Commission

Poverty Law Litigation Project
Hispanic Family Center
Lutheran Family Services

Seattle (WA):

Washington Department of Social and Health Services

  • Kent Community Services Organization
  • Rainier Community Services Organization

Seattle Office of Economic Development, Seattle Jobs Initiative
Community Health Access Program
Community Health Center of King County
Public Health Department of Seattle & King County, Access and Outreach
Eastgate Public Health
TRAC Associates Agency
Northwest Justice Project
Refugee Women's Alliance
The Children's Alliance
World Relief
Center for Multicultural Health
Highline School District, Medicaid Outreach
Kids Health 2001, Cross Cultural Health Care Program
YWCA of Seattle
Asian Counseling and Reference Service

Sedalia (MO):

Missouri Department of Social Services, Division of Family Services, Pettis County
Bothwell Regional Health Center

Pettis County Community Partnership

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