By Juan Cole
Verified Income Helps Caseworkers Meet Demand
With continued unemployment, demand for public assistance programs is on the rise. That means efficiency is more important than ever. Unfortunately, caseworkers can delay assistance when they have to manually compare information or use outdated data. This underscores the need for county and state programs to have the right data.
Some of the information caseworkers have to assess remains constant, such as citizenship or identity. Other information is more variable and caseworkers need to check multiple data sources. These can include income and employment, incarceration status, financial assets and personal property for eligibility decisioning. Each of these factors can change, often more frequently than expected.
In a report by Equifax and the Government Business Council, state government and Equifax leaders showed the importance of timely and accurate data in eligibility decisions. According to studies that use The Work Number® data, the median monthly income of individuals can change as much as 20% month-over-month. This can have a major impact on eligibility and redetermination decisions. Then, layer on the economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and income status has become even more important to identify individuals and families in need.
Lagging Data can Create Delays
Most government agencies require applicants to provide information, such as paystubs and other documents, to demonstrate they qualify for aid. When that self-reported information doesn’t match up, it creates additional workload for agency caseworkers. For example, if applicant-reported income doesn’t match State Wage Data, then a caseworker can delay or deny benefits. But State Wage Data can be up to 120 days old, which means caseworkers may not use current income to evaluate an application. They may waste precious time manually requesting updated paystubs from an applicant. Or they may need to call employer HR and payroll offices for additional information so they can move a social service benefit application or redetermination through the process. Furthermore, benefit applications can become more complex when an applicant decides to re-apply due to decision delays.
Better Data, Better Outcomes
Social service applications are largely based on an individual's income. But most programs require additional information about the applicant and their situation. Starting with an income verification from a database like The Work Number®, which is updated with every employer payroll cycle, is just the beginning. Caseworkers must validate information that verifies an applicant's identity, residency, property holdings and even incarceration status. These additional datasets are required to facilitate a more efficient determination and protect program integrity.
Integration of Datasets Offers Additional Efficiency
Rethinking the process to include additional datasets can help reduce manual processes and improve the process accuracy. To maximize efficiency, automated system-to-system data integration into the casework workflow streamlines the process. Rather than having to log in and out of diverse dataset tools, screens and platforms, much of the required information can be pre-aligned with the program requirements to bring up more of the necessary information using one simple search in the same system. System integration also facilitates faster notification of changes in not only an applicant’s employment or income, but also significant life changes like incarceration status.
System integration can even flag when the same applicant has applied for benefits in another state. This continuous access to current data, coupled with an integrated system, helps caseworkers mitigate blind spots in application processing and be more responsive as applicants’ needs change over time.
Check out this case study on how a social service agency maximized operational efficiency by integrating The Work Number. It's the industry-leading employment and income information database that comes directly from the payroll source.