MDRC in the News

3 Ways to Get Benefits to the Families that Need Them



Why don’t government social services programs better serve families struggling through crises like the COVID-19 pandemic? One reason is that these systems are designed for compliance over access. Many of those who are in need and qualify are deterred by high administrative burdens, including excessive steps and paperwork…..

…..Consider a child support agency in Ohio that partnered with MDRC’s Center for Applied Behavioral Science (CABS). Once parents expressed interest in modifying their child support payments, Cuyahoga County used existing administrative data to identify those who could skip an eligibility form. The county saw a 12 percentage point increase in parents completing the modification process compared to the standard process, saving time and resources for both parents and staff. Parents finished the process six weeks faster. Staff saved hours of time on mailing and reviewing each eligibility form.

Similarly, maintaining benefits can be complex. Consider an experiment that ideas42 ran with the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance to help people retain their SNAP benefits, formerly known as “food stamps,” which are so essential to millions of American families’ nutritional security. Many individuals struggle to recertify their eligibility and fall off the program, only to reapply soon after. To prevent this, ideas42 simply included a copy of the recertification form with a reminder letter. This single extra copy increased submissions by 1.7 percentage points and decreased lateness by 1.3 points……

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