Demand for public benefits is rising in response to two influences: continuing economic pressure on vulnerable families and individuals, and changes to eligibility rules for some safety net programs as a result of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008; the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009; and the Affordable Care Act of 2010. In response to increasing demand and tightening state budgets that necessitate administrative efficiencies, public and private entities are exploring options for expediting and streamlining access to benefits. Although these efforts vary in form, reach, and intensity, information systems technology is often an essential component of a more comprehensive approach to helping Americans who are struggling to make ends meet.
As a major federal funder of public benefits, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is committed to understanding the range and nature of these efforts, which can be based on web technology, systems integration, and/or electronic data matching. Accordingly, the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) contracted with Mathematica Policy Research to (1) summarize existing benefits access efforts; (2) study the successes and challenges of a subset of these efforts through in-depth case studies; and (3) analyze the potential for sustaining, expanding, and replicating the most promising efforts. This report presents the results of the first step in this process.