Millions of American families count on programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and child care to support their health, nutrition, and well-being. These programs have a proven record of supporting better life outcomes for parents and children alike. 

Beginning with the President’s Executive Order on Customer Experience, the Biden-Harris Administration has worked to ensure improved access and accurate benefits. Families should be able to:

  • Easily find out what they are eligible for;
  • Apply for and receive benefits quickly and without excessive red tape;
  • Provide critical information to government once, rather than re-submitting the same information multiple times across programs;
  • Remain enrolled as long as they are eligible; and
  • Have equitable, high quality service experiences.

Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is highlighting policy and implementation actions that the Federal Government has taken to improve benefits access.  These actions include both policy changes, like simplifying applications and eliminating waiting periods, and implementation actions, like helping states reduce application backlogs and enabling data sharing across programs. These actions build on the Office of Management and Budget and the United States Digital Service’s (USDS) Life Experience project to support Americans Facing a Financial Shock. 

The Biden-Harris Administration is also identifying opportunities for States to take additional policy actions to streamline the process of accessing benefits or use existing data sources to verify information rather than requiring it from users. 

Effective federal and state strategies for improving customer service can improve efficiency and achieve three benefits:

  • Reducing the burden on residents, so they do not need to produce paperwork to get or keep their benefits and establish facts that the state knows or should know;
  • Reducing the burden on state agencies, so they can focus on areas of greatest human need and greatest fraud risk; and
  • Reducing risk of error and fraud, as simpler applications generate fewer unintentional mistakes, automatic verifications can be more accurate, and streamlined processes free staff to focus on the riskiest cases and at-scale benefits fraud.

Highlights from the Biden-Harris Administration Record

Policy Changes:

  • On March 27, 2024, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule to protect and improve how millions of eligible people apply for, renew, and maintain their Medicaid coverage. The rule reduces red tape and simplifies applications, verifications, enrollment, and renewals for health care coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). It also expands access to coverage for children in CHIP by eliminating waiting periods, coverage lockouts for non-payment of premiums, and annual and lifetime benefit limits.
  • HHS finalized a rule strengthening the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program, which supports over a million children and their families each month with child care assistance. The rule makes it easier for families to access CCDBG subsidies by encouraging states to streamline eligibility and enrollment processes and reduce red tape that can disrupt parent employment, training, and education. The final rule also encourages states to adopt a policy of presumptive eligibility for child care subsidies, considerably lowering the burden for families to receive the subsidy, particularly for families experiencing homelessness.

Implementation Support:

  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) partnered with USDS to help numerous states make their systems more accurate and efficient – increasing monthly auto-renewal, or ex parte, rates by an average of 21% and decreasing procedural termination rates by an average of 10%. In 2024, these improvements are projected to save over two million hours of state worker time and enable states to renew health coverage with less red tape for over five million eligible individuals.
  • USDS and CMS discovered and helped states fix a systems issue that impacted 29 states and was responsible for improper loss of coverage for over 400,000 children and families in Medicaid and CHIP. As a result, improperly disenrolled individuals regained their coverage and retroactively had their coverage reinstated for their period of improper disenrollment.
  • In Spring 2024, USDS will launch pilots to improve income verification for federal benefit programs. The pilots will test and measure new approaches to improve incoming reporting, electronic verification for self-employed workers, coordination of federal benefit services, and reducing barriers to federal benefit programs.
  • In April 2024, USDA expects to release the Request for Applications for Fiscal Year 2024 Process and Technology Improvement Grants, which will award a total of $5 million in grants to between 5 and 12 awardees to simplify SNAP application and eligibility determination systems.
  • In March 2024, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) launched the new Direct File Pilot Program in partnership with USDS to help Americans file their taxes for free. Made possible by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, Direct File provides a free, secure option for an estimated 19 million taxpayers in 12 states to file their taxes directly with the IRS. Initial users have saved hundreds of dollars and reported that the tool is simple and straightforward to use.  
  • USDS partnered with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to makes it easier for Americans to use the SSA website to apply for benefits, sign up for Medicare, and apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), resulting in a 52.8% increase in customer satisfaction among the 180 million annual visitors to This work included creating a more user-friendly eligibility process so that more SSA customers start an online application when they discover they may be eligible for benefits.
  • In 2022, through a partnership between USDS and the U.S. Postal Service, the Biden-Harris Administration delivered over 800 million COVID-19 test kits for free to households across the U.S. through an easy. website.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched a new Health and Benefits mobile app that makes it easier for Veterans to access benefits, including managing disability claims and appeals. The app has more than 2 million downloads, with almost a million monthly active users who send over 300,000 secure messages and refill over a quarter of a million prescriptions each month.

An Agenda for States to Improve Access to Safety Net Programs

While the federal government has a key role to play in improving benefits delivery, states have a number of opportunities to improve benefits delivery as well.

State leaders are encouraged to consider the following options to improve access to nutrition assistance:

  • Adopting SNAP options available under current law, such as simplifying reporting requirements and assigning the longest certification periods of 12 months for most households and up to 36 months for some older adults and individuals with disabilities. Reducing verification workloads by applying the standard medical expense amount for elderly or disabled individuals with expenses over $35 without requiring receipts, and opting in to USDA’s national SNAP Earnings Verification Service (EVS) contract through the Work Number, which provides access to two commercial databases as a lower cost way to conduct income verification services in order to verify earned income sources and amounts for SNAP applicants and recipients. 
  • Streamlining eligibility verification processes by implementing data sharing agreements with other state agencies to verify eligibility and circumstances. Implementing data sharing agreements necessary to allow state agencies that administer Medicaid, TANF, and SNAP to automatically enroll eligible people in WIC.
  • Aligning asset limit for SNAP Households with TANF-funded benefits to reduce the burden of providing numerous verifications for the same data that add time and complexity to the eligibility determination process, and to avoid discouraging households from building savings that support financial security. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have aligned their SNAP asset limits with programs that do not have asset limits for most recipients and four states have aligned their assets limits with programs that have higher asset limits. Other states have also aligned their SNAP gross income limit up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line to remove participation barriers for low-income households with high housing and dependent care expenses, streamline caseload processing, and bring additional federal funding into their communities.
  • Implementing new WIC flexibilities that allow for more flexibility in providing services remotely to increase convenience, such as allowing for WIC benefits and nutrition education to be delivered virtually.

State leaders can further improve customers’ experience of benefit programs by taking the following steps to improve access to health programs:

  • Use SNAP administrative data to automatically certify Medicaid eligibility.
  • Use Social Security data on enrollment in Medicare, Supplemental Security Income, and the Low-Income Subsidy as an application for Medicare Savings Programs (MSP), in compliance with the 2023 final rule to streamline MSP application and enrollment.

Sustained improvement in benefits access and customer experience requires changes across policy, operations, technology, staffing, procurement, and more. Best practices include integrated access through a common application for multiple programs and automating participant renewals using available data to pre-populate renewal forms. They also include implementing organizational and systemic improvements like using behavioral science and human-centered design methods for process streamlining, supporting culture change across staff that centers on high standards for customer experience (CX), and facilitating cross-agency collaboration to coordinate common efforts that improve benefits access.

A description of best practices for benefits access can be found here.


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