Sam Berger, OIRA Associate Administrator
Today, OIRA is releasing a report summarizing the progress we have made working with agencies and members of the public in identifying and reducing burdens that individuals, families, and small businesses face every day when interacting with government programs. Every year, billions in Congressionally authorized government benefits goes unclaimed—as much as $140 billion according to one estimate. These benefits include tax credits for working families, health insurance coverage for low-income adults and children, and support for those with disabilities. Similarly, many small businesses that qualify for tax credits do not claim them.
These unclaimed benefits increase economic insecurity, make it more challenging for small businesses to grow, and undermine our country’s economic potential. So why don’t people take full advantage of government programs for which they are eligible? One common reason is administrative burdens—costs like the “time tax” required to learn about a program, fill out paperwork, assemble required documents, and schedule visits to government offices.
Reducing burdens to access public benefits and services is a central priority for the Biden-Harris Administration, including for the office where I work, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Through its implementation of the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), OIRA is charged with ensuring that the Federal government minimizes the burdens that fall on members of the public through government forms.
For some families and small businesses, administrative burdens keep them from accessing much-needed benefits altogether. Others may succeed in accessing benefits—but pay a cost through lost time, additional stress, stigma, or more. All too frequently these burdens fall unequally across the population, entrenching disparities. And these costs do not just carry economic consequences; they also reduce people’s trust in the ability of government to meet their basic needs or operate efficiently and fairly.
In 2022, OIRA announced a new initiative to more accurately estimate the different burdens faced by the public when accessing government services and benefits and work collaboratively with Federal agencies to reduce those burdens—including by partnering with agencies when reviewing government forms and relevant regulations involving public benefits and services.
In today’s report, we summarize burden reduction initiatives across a range of Federal agencies, including:
- The Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to proactively reduce burden on individuals using mobile drivers’ licenses as identification when flying.
- The Small Business Administration’s and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s efforts to support small businesses, including by making it easier for Veteran-owned small businesses to do work with the Federal government and for small businesses to file patents for their inventions.
- The Department of Agriculture’s efforts to simplify and streamline applications for Federal loans for farmers who cannot otherwise secure credit to start or maintain their farms.
- The Department of Education’s efforts to simplify and streamline the option of eliminating student loan debt for disabled borrowers, including through automated eligibility determinations.
- The Social Security Administration’s efforts to simplify and streamline recertification of disability status (also known as Continuing Disability Review), making it easier for individuals with disabilities to maintain access to critical Social Security supports.
These initiatives will help millions of individuals, families, and small businesses. I am proud of the impact that these initiatives will have in reducing the time tax that so many individuals, families, and small businesses face.
In the coming year, OIRA looks forward to continuing to work closely with Federal agencies on implementing high-impact burden reduction measures and identifying additional measures to pursue through ongoing public engagement with affected communities. An important way that we can work to reduce burden is by hearing directly from the public. We encourage members of the public to visit OIRA’s website to see forms we are currently reviewing and that are open for comment. Your comments can make a difference, by helping us to understand the barriers or burdens you might face in completing a form.