Benefits Access in a Pandemic: Meeting the Need
While these past two months have brought unprecedented challenges for our nation, Benefits Data Trust (BDT) has been focused on connecting even more people to essential benefits that help pay for groceries, housing, healthcare, and more. There has never been a greater need for dignified benefits access to meet people where they are. And although our staff are all working remotely, we share a united sense of purpose to rise to meet the moment and serve our communities.
As unemployment reaches record highs, there is no doubt that the need for benefits access continues to climb. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, we have answered many more calls across our state phone lines (Colorado, Maryland, New York City, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina), with call volume quadrupling in certain geographies. We have also experienced a spike in referrals from community-based agencies – as much as six times our regular volume. This underscores the high need that our partners on the front lines are facing, and the importance of collaboration to ensure we can collectively help as many people as possible.
Over the past two months, we have also reprioritized and accelerated our plans to ensure we can maximize our impact and serve more people in need in this new landscape. Our strategy focuses on four strategic objectives:
- Expanding contact center capacity to support the growing number of individuals in need
- Adapting benefits and services to ensure BDT and our government partners can quickly respond to changing eligibility and process requirements
- Being a guidepost by offering solutions that allow people to find answers to common questions, screen themselves for benefits, and apply on their own
- Equipping the community by sharing remote benefits access tools, training, and best practices with other community-based providers
Our strategy reflects that collaboration is more important than ever to ensure those who are harmed most by this economic crisis can get the support they need. It has been inspiring to witness our partners on the front lines in government and community-based organizations snapping into action to serve those in need, and to see our incredible partners in philanthropy step up to invest in expanding benefits access in this critical moment. We have been in close communication with our partners to understand their needs and see how we can best support them. We are offering technical assistance to states as they make policy decisions to keep benefits systems running with minimal in-person contact, and we are actively supporting direct service organizations through their transition to serve clients remotely, including those who use our benefits access tools in Philadelphia and New York City.
We will no doubt learn important lessons in the months ahead as we adapt to changing conditions, opportunities, and challenges. But BDT’s most important priority is that the people who depend on us – clients and partners – will continue to receive the same high standard of service to ensure that those most impacted by the economic downturn get the help they need and deserve. Every day, we are working toward a more robust, respectful, and accessible benefits system that is there for everyone.