PHILADELPHIA, October 25, 2023 – Benefits Data Trust (BDT), a national nonprofit modernizing access to government assistance since 2005, will lead a cohort of state agencies in modernizing access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by enabling families to sign applications over the phone, reducing unnecessary paperwork and administrative burden.
Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Families and Workers Fund, BDT will help states adopt a strategy for streamlining SNAP access that can also help reduce the burdens created by the Medicaid unwinding and the end of the federal COVID-19 public health emergency declaration. In addition to helping states adopt telephonic signatures for SNAP applications, BDT will support the participating states to use SNAP enrollment data to streamline Medicaid renewals, a solution that can have significant impact on maintaining healthcare benefits for people who remain eligible for Medicaid.
Since 2005, BDT has streamlined access to benefits for millions of people in 18 states by helping government agencies adopt policy and practice changes. Through participation in the cohort, agencies that administer SNAP will receive support to permit telephonic signatures to simplify the application process for families and individuals and for the community-based organizations that assist state agencies in screening and enrolling applicants. The project will also help agencies reduce administrative burdens for government workers.
“It is in the finer details of benefit program administration and policy at the state level where the real work to streamline access to nutrition and health programs gets done,” said Ki`i Kimhan Powell, Senior Director of Policy at Benefits Data Trust. “We are grateful for the support of both the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Families and Workers Fund, who recognize that policy levers are a critical element of systems change.”
Being able to apply for SNAP by phone is an important pathway for many individuals and families. It is also how many community-based organizations help eligible people apply and was particularly vital during the COVID-19 pandemic. The use of telephonic signature makes the phone application process more efficient by removing the time- and labor-intensive requirement to send the application by mail to be physically signed and returned by the applicant. Federal guidance issued last year eliminated a significant technological barrier to SNAP telephonic signatures, yet less than half of states are using this solution to streamline the SNAP application process.
"Too many families continue to struggle to access public benefits and agencies are facing tremendous operational challenges," said Tyonka Perkins Rimawi, Program Director at the Families and Workers Fund. "BDT's important work centers benefits applicants and administrators at a time when the stakes could not be higher to equitably preserve and increase access now and in the long term."
With the end of the federal COVID-19 public health emergency declaration earlier this year, many temporary expansions and modifications to benefit programs have expired. Now, millions of people are losing or facing reduced food assistance and health insurance amid ongoing inflation, while government agencies face massive caseloads amid staffing shortages. BDT is working with state partners to implement multiple solutions that can mitigate this unprecedented loss of assistance and the significant increase in poverty.
Five to eight states will be part of the cohort, and BDT is now inviting state SNAP agencies to learn more about the opportunity at an informational webinar on October 30. The selected states will join a 10-month collaborative learning cohort. Funding is available for state agencies to help offset administrative costs associated with their participation, thanks to the project’s generous funders.
About Benefits Data Trust
Benefits Data Trust (BDT) improves health and financial security by harnessing the power of data, technology, and policy to provide dignified and equitable access to assistance. Together with a national network of government agencies and partners, we efficiently connect people today to programs that pay for food, healthcare, and more while helping to modernize benefits access for tomorrow. A nonprofit since 2005, BDT has secured more than $10 billion in benefits for households across the country, helping to reduce hunger and poverty and build pathways to economic mobility. Learn more at bdtrust.org.