The public benefit obstacle course – and how to get out of it

Applying for public benefits is hard.  The Department of Social Services in Connecticut has an extraordinary amount of forms; just figuring out the right one takes some effort. Once the right application has been selected, the second hurdle always is the paperwork itself; with some applications running for 22 pages, completing the form is by itself a challenge. The third step is figuring out what additional documents are necessary to include with the application, which of course vary wildly from one benefit to the next. After getting all that right, it would be the time to figure out to what DSS office we need to send everything (harder than it seems, as it might not be the closest -and yes, the map on the DSS website is wrong) and then figuring out the interview process, making sure not to miss a single phone call.

It is not just a hard process – Connecticut actually has one of the most unwelcoming and convoluted benefit application systems in the nation, according to a recent study:

benefit_map

There are only eight states in the country that have no system in place whatsoever to apply for public benefits online – Connecticut is part of that undistinguished minority.  Fortunately, and thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act,  DSS is working to create an online web portal that will enable clients to apply directly from their computers. The system is (largely) on track, and will be operational late summer / early fall this year.

This won´t make applying for benefits exactly a breeze, in any case. The applications will remain long and confusing, paperwork complex and the process will be hard to navigate for many. CAHS has been working with more than 30 partner organizations to help clients get the benefits through our EarnBenefits Online (EBO) program, now in our fourth year of operation. Just in 2012 CAHS and our community partners screened close to 3,200 households for benefits using EBO, enrolling more than 1,500 households in public benefits.  We work with organizations serving hard to reach populations, in neighborhoods underserved by DSS, and also provide the software to high traffic sites like Community Health Centers.

The EBO program has proved highly successful, as we work with community organizations and clients to make the challenging obstacle course to DSS much easier. Starting our fourth year, we will keep working with partners and DSS to make sure that access to benefits in Connecticut is available to all that need them, without barriers or roadblocks.

About Roger Senserrich

Roger is CAHS' policy coordinator, and directs the Access Benefits project, a program dedicated to streamlining the process of applying for public benefits. He has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, and a master’s degree in Social Studies from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. He also blogs (in Spanish) on his free time at politikon.es
This entry was posted in CAHS program work, State Policy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The public benefit obstacle course – and how to get out of it

  1. Hi, just wanted to mention, I enjoyed this blog post. It was practical. Keep on posting!

  2. mobile games says:

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate
    you writing this write-up and also the rest of
    the site is very good.

  3. What’s up to all, how is all, I think every one is getting more
    from this web site, and your views are good designed for
    new visitors.

    my website … watch walk of shame

  4. Wonderful goods from you, man. I have have in mind your stuff previous
    to and you are simply extremely excellent. I really like what you’ve acquired right here, really like what you are saying and the way in which through which you say it.
    You’re making it entertaining and you continue to care for to stay it sensible.
    I can’t wait to read much more from you. This is actually a tremendous web site.

    Feel free to visit my web page … brick mansions full movie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>