In addition to those described above, several other initiatives designed to promote benefits access are underway. As these fledgling initiatives unfold, they are likely to give rise to tools and technologies that may be added to the national scan. This section describes some particularly relevant developing initiatives that interested stakeholders may want to monitor.
Social Services and Income Maintenance Benefits Enrollment Coordination Grants. The Office of Community Services in the Administration for Children and Families/HHS recently awarded five one-year grants to support social services and income maintenance benefits enrollment coordination.According to the grant announcement, the grant program will supportefforts to develop and implement evidence-based, innovative programming in the area of benefits enrollment outreach and assistance.The program will also identify benefits enrollment and coordination models that could be strengthened, adapted, and assessed for community impact and results. Grantees will carry out three core functions: (1) use existing community access points to coordinate the benefits enrollment process for under-served residents; (2) combine technology and expert analysis to accurately assess individual and family eligibility for multiple benefits and services; and (3) provide mechanisms for sustaining collaboration between community nonprofit organizations and government agencies for benefits determination and eligibility. The grantees include:
- Amador-Tuolomne Community Resources, Inc., in Jackson, CA
- Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago in Chicago, IL
- Maine Community Action Association in Augusta, ME
- 2-1-1 Tampa Bay Cares, Inc., in Clearwater, FL
- PathWays PA, Inc., in Holmes, PA
HHS Panel on Simplifying Eligibility for Health and Human Services Programs. HHS has convened a committee of experts to develop standards for multiple programs to share knowledge and information about the people they serve to facilitate cross-program enrollment.The group is charged with developing interoperable and secure standards and protocols that facilitate enrollment of individuals in federal and state health and human services programs, and is working on electronic matching, simplification of documentation, reuse of eligibility information, capability for individuals to manage their information on-line, and communication with individuals.
The Partnership Fund for Program Integrity Innovation. The 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-117) created the Partnership Fund for Program Integrity Innovation (the Partnership Fund) to identify ways to improve service delivery, payment accuracy, and administrative efficiency in federal assistance programs while reducing barriers to access. As noted above, many federal assistance programs are either partly or fully administered by state and local governments in which program officials responsible for service delivery often work independently of those responsible for program oversight and payment accuracy. Similarly, these programs often operate independently of each other even though they serve similar low-income populations. The Partnership Fund will allow federal, state, and local agencies to pilot innovative program integrity improvements in a controlled environment. Pilot projects are being proposed and funded on a rolling basis. Funded projects will be evaluated, and successful ones will serve as models for other states and local agencies. In addition, evaluation results could be used to inform future administrative or legislative changes. The Partnership Fund seeks the public’s ideas for pilot projects through the Collaborative Forum (http://collaborativeforumonline.com), where proposals can be posted and discussed.
Work Support Strategies: Streamlining Access, Strengthening Families Grants. The Ford Foundation, in partnership with the Urban Institute and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, recently solicited proposals from states for grants to improve the delivery of work supports to low-income families. This new program, known as the Work Support Strategies: Streamlining Access, Strengthening Families grants, will provide up to eight states with an opportunity to design, test, and implement streamlined, integrated, and technologically innovative approaches to delivering key work-support benefits to low-income families, including health care coverage, nutrition benefits, and child care subsidies. For states and clients alike, the grants program is expected to reduce the burden associated with eligibility determination, enrollment, and retention. The nine states selected in early 2011 to receive grants:
- North Carolina
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
Cycle II CHIPRA Outreach and Enrollment Grants. In February 2011, CMS announced the availability of an additional $40 million in CHIPRA outreach and enrollment grant funding (see section III.A above) to states, local governments, community-based and nonprofit organizations, tribes and others. Grants will be awarded in the summer of 2011.The grant solicitation requires that proposals identify one of five focus areas for the prospective project. One of the areas is the use of technology to facilitate enrollment and renewal. Grantees who designate this focus area may receive up to $2.5 million to be spent over the course of 24 months. According to the initial grant announcement, efforts may include:
- “Creating on-line applications, augmenting existing applications (for example, adding electronic signature capability, a renewal module, and/or personal account management functions), or extending the reach of on-line applications through community-based organizations. Grant funds used to create or develop new on-line enrollment and renewal tools, or enhance existing tools, must be able to demonstrate that the enrollment or renewal processes have been simplified and streamlined as a result;
- Simplifying the renewal process by implementing administrative renewal, including implementing the use of pre-populated renewal forms;
- Creating or enhancing systems for verification of data provided by families (with the goal of minimizing the amount of documentation a family must submit at application and at renewal), including the ability to scan documents and conduct data matching with other program databases.”