By Michael Barnes
Government agencies across the nation have faced significant increases to social service benefits applications and renewal requests, due largely to heightened need during the public health emergency (PHE). This influx of activity made verifying income and employment – an essential step in most benefit eligibility determinations – even more difficult. In fact, many agencies were tasked with serving more people in need than ever before, with the same or fewer resources than they had pre-pandemic.
Rather than shying away from the challenge, the Los Angeles County (L.A. County) Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) saw in the crisis an opportunity to innovate and improve its processes to better serve clients – through the pandemic and beyond. A recent case study from Equifax Workforce Solutions shows how L.A. County DPSS continued providing quick relief to those in need – serving one in three residents in the nation’s largest county – with help from The Work Number.
Now, as the PHE unwinds, other state and county social service benefits agencies can prepare by learning best practices from L.A. County DPSS adaptations during the PHE itself.
The nation’s PHE was last renewed on April 16, and the Department of Health and Human Services has indicated that it will give a 60-day notice if it intends to let it expire at the end of this most recent 90-day extension. Once it ends, many may be left without critical social service benefits that were expanded under the PHE. For example, as many as 16 million people could fall off Medicaid, at which point state agencies will have to re-determine whether those individuals still qualify for the program. And with every extension, the redeterminations backlog is growing, with as many as one in four Americans now insured by the program.
Since expanding access for caseworkers to The Work Number, among other solutions, L.A. County DPSS has realized 70-80 percent same-day eligibility determinations for renewals – and other agencies may be able to do the same.
States and local social service agencies can prepare now for the pending influx of redeterminations by utilizing The Work Number service to enable near-instant verifications of income and employment, with data as current as the most recent payroll cycle. By doing so, they can identify changes in income, ensure those enrolled can demonstrate continued eligibility, and more.
Despite the influx of applications at the onset of the pandemic, L.A. County DPSS knew that resolving cases at the point of first contact would allow the agency to continue timely access to its services. This helped lay the groundwork for continuous process improvement at the organization.
Because even under “normal” circumstances, hand-delivering paystubs or uploading income and employment information to a web portal can be a challenge for many applicants, part of the solution for L.A. County was to improve its income and employment verifications process. While it had already been using The Work Number, with the help of Equifax Workforce Solutions, it invested time into fully training employees on the service, enabling them to fully leverage the database to achieve benefit determinations at the point of first contact.
With help from The Work Number, L.A. County DPSS enabled caseworkers to fulfill more determinations at the point of first contact while minimizing the need for requesting additional information or documentation from the applicants. As agencies prepare for the end of the PHE, they may be able to realize similar efficiencies in their own programs by fully leveraging The Work Number.
To learn more about Social Service Verifications from The Work Number, visit the link here.