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software met the needs of communi- ties deeply impacted by the fallout of the pandemic.
Easing administrative burdens
by focusing on users
When the Biden administration direct-
ed OMB to create this study, the office asked for input on the issues from a broad swath of stakeholders, including the public, private, advocacy and non- profit sectors. Nava responded with a series of recommendations stemming from our own experiences. It was thrill- ing to see some of our suggestions echoed in the language of OMB’s report.
In particular, the following key mea- sures to reduce administrative burdens and achieve equity fell in line with our recommendations and likely those of many others:
• Center people, not technology.
The report cites “adopting principles of human-centered design” as a potential solution for administrative burdens. We believe working with government partners, caseworkers and the people enrolling in these programs results in better and more equitable outcomes.
• Use plain language. The report recommends writing “all instructions
and plain language” and translat- ing them into multiple languages. This is criti- cal because inequities often arise when the most vulnerable popu- lations cannot navigate crucial workflows.
• Omit in-person requirements. The
report recommends shifting from “in- person requirements to telephone or video-teleconference.” This shift would transform access to some public servic- es, give back decades of labor-hours to civil servants and free the public from having to travel to a government office.
• Reduce the burden of recerti- fication. The report states that “fre- quent recertification” creates burdens for users. Recertifications are often incredibly high leverage points in sys- tems that introduce program complex- ity and increase the possibility that peo- ple will abandon their efforts to access government services. Those problems can often be solved by simple busi- ness process changes or flexible digital solutions.
For the organizations and people
who work to make government programs more accessible, the OMB report’s findings are deeply affirming. It’s no secret that we’ve entered a period of high distrust between people and the government that serves them. This trust can slowly be restored
in these everyday interactions when a website or an application guide stands between people and the government programs designed to help them.
The Biden administration has indi- cated that when it comes to the admin- istrative burdens Americans face in interacting with the government, the biggest risk is doing more of the same. Agencies gearing up to submit their own equity assessments this month and all of us invested in building better technol- ogy for government should pay close attention. n
Sha Hwang is chief operating officer of Nava, a public benefit corporation that seeks to improve critical govern- ment services for vulnerable popula- tions.
For the organizations and people who work to make government programs more accessible, the OMB report’s findings are deeply affirming.
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