This Is the Difference Between a Family Surviving and a Family Sinking

Article by Bryce Covert: “…The excitement around policymaking is almost always in the moments after ink dries on a bill creating something new. But if a benefit fails to reach the people it’s designed for, it may as well not exist at all. Making government benefits more accessible and efficient doesn’t usually get the spotlight. But it’s often the difference between a family getting what it needs to survive and falling into hardship and destitution. It’s the glue of our democracy.

President Biden appears to have taken note of this. Late last year, he issued an executive order meant to improve the “customer experience and service delivery” of the entire federal government. He put forward some ideas, including moving Social Security benefit claims and passport renewals online, reducing paperwork for student loan forgiveness and certifying low-income people for all the assistance they qualify for at once, rather than making them seek out benefits program by program. More important, he shifted the focus of government toward whether or not the customers — that’s us — are having a good experience getting what we deserve.

It’s a direction all lawmakers, from the federal level down to counties and cities, should follow.

One of the biggest barriers to government benefits is all of the red tape to untangle, particularly for programs that serve low-income people. They were the ones wrangling with the I.R.S.’s nonfiler portal while others got their payments automatically. Benefits delivered through the tax code, which flow so easily that many people don’t think of them as government benefits at all, mostly help the already well-off. Programs for the poor, on the other hand, tend to be bloated with barriers like income tests, work requirements and in-person interviews. It’s not just about applying once, either; many require people to continually recertify, going through the process over and over again.

The hassle doesn’t just cost time and effort. It comes with a psychological cost. “You get mad at the D.M.V. because it takes hours to do something that should only take minutes,” Pamela Herd, a sociologist at Georgetown, said. “These kind of stresses can be really large when you’re talking about people who are on a knife’s edge in terms of their ability to pay their rent or feed their children.”…(More)”.