Federal, state, and local governments should work together to revamp antiquated social services information systems. Giving participants the option to complete application forms online would be less burdensome especially if computer access is available through public libraries, public schools, facilities at nonprofits, and other locations. It would save government the cost of processing forms by hand that could be automatically processed by a computer.
The governments should also work together to create a centralized “document commons” so that applicants for programs need to submit key documents—birth certificates and proof of citizenship—only once. Of course, there must be strict protocols to protect the privacy of such information.
Better information technology should also speed the application process. The 30-day deadlines that states have to process food stamp applications (a deadline they often do not meet, at least partly due to old information systems) should be reduced to five days. In some states, such as Oregon, applicants receive their benefit on the first day they apply; that should become the national standard.
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