Biden aims to reduce bureaucratic bypassing of government services – ABC4 Utah


WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden will sign an executive order on Monday aimed at saving Americans time and frustration when they seek a wide range of federal services, such as passport renewals, applying for Social Security benefits and obtaining help after natural disasters.

The White House released details of the order on Monday, ahead of a scheduled afternoon signing by Biden. Parts of the ordinance were also provided in advance to advocacy groups who called on the government to improve its level of service to the public.

The ordinance aims to reduce the current bureaucratic bypass, whereby people often have to walk into offices, endure long phone calls, or struggle with mail and fax delays when trying to contact federal agencies.

White House officials have said they hope it could help renew confidence in government and democracy itself at a time when deep political polarization has eroded trust in U.S. institutions.

“This executive order is really focused on how the federal government provides services to the public and ensures that we are providing high quality products to the public,” said Neera Tanden, senior advisor to the president. “As we ask the government to do more, we can make sure the government is doing it better. “

This is a tall order, given that the federal government has persisted in its cumbersome despite repeated attempts over generations to make it more nimble. President Bill Clinton pledged in 1993 to “reinvent government” with an interagency task force.

The order comes at a critical time for Biden to show he can deliver results. The country has seen a strong economic rebound as coronavirus relief programs sent money directly to Americans. But support for the president has collapsed as the United States faces inflation at an almost four-decade high and the coronavirus pandemic persists.

The new executive order is expected to bring government services into the digital age, said Bill Sweeney, senior vice president of government affairs for AARP, an association for older Americans.

“We do our banking online,” Sweeney said. “We do our work online. We can order food online. We can order groceries from our phone. I think people are used to this now and they are also demanding that the government follow through. “

The goal is to implement most of the order changes in 17 federal agencies over the next year. Officials said existing funds should be enough for agencies to pay for improvements and that better service and efficiency would ultimately save the government money. Biden planned to sign the order on Monday afternoon.

Paul Light, a public policy professor at New York University and an expert on federal bureaucracy, said the move could be a big problem, although the Biden administration faces obstacles.

“The problem is not with hope but with the bureaucratic quagmire,” Light said. “The struggle to improve government services requires a vast retooling of bureaucratic cabling and a flattening of the hierarchy. The federal government may be willing, but its technology is old, its staffing system slow, the bureaucratic stratification relentless. “

The government has identified 35 service providers in federal agencies who can reduce administrative burdens and develop “new online tools and technologies that can provide a simple, transparent and secure customer experience,” according to a fact sheet from the House. White.

For retirees and the nearly 4 million Americans who turn 65 each year, the ordinance requires that they can more easily claim Social Security benefits online. Medicare beneficiaries need to be able to access personalized online tools to save money on drugs and manage their health care. Taxpayers will be able to schedule recalls with the IRS instead of waiting on hold or having to deal with issues through letters and faxes.

For travelers, Americans will be able to renew their passports online instead of having to print out forms and pay with a paper check or money order. New security machines and computers with advanced control functions must streamline the process of crossing security lines for the estimated 2 million people who travel daily.

The 45 million people in debt will be able to manage their federal loans through a single portal, instead of multiple websites with different passwords. The paperwork should also be reduced for people requesting loan forgiveness.

Natural disasters strike approximately 25 million homes and small businesses in the United States each year. Survivors seeking federal help should no longer be required to complete multiple forms at multiple agencies, while being able to use virtual inspections and smartphone images of the damage to substantiate claims.

Military veterans must be able to access their benefits with a single login. Poorer families should find it easier to certify their income and enroll in qualifying social safety net programs without the additional red tape. Loan programs for small businesses and farmers need to become more responsive. Families receiving food assistance should be able to shop online. It should become easier to update mailing addresses with the government or change names with the Social Security Administration.

Anne Zimmerman, an accountant based in the Cincinnati area, said the changes in the order are necessary because companies are often alone as they navigate the federal bureaucracy. As the co-chair of the Small Business Advocacy Group for America’s Future, she was briefed by the White House of the order ahead of the announcement.

“It’s necessary because things have really gotten worse,” Zimmerman said. “There is too big a maze to go through when trying to deal with the government. “

Jason Miller, deputy director of management in the Office of Management and Budget, said the changes were aimed at building “trust between the public and their government.” Online forms could also reduce the risk of fraud, while the administration takes steps to ensure the security of personal information.

Why hasn’t all this happened sooner?

Officials said the pandemic has prompted an increase in appeals to the IRS and other agencies. He also showed how the government can adapt and innovate despite closed offices and remote workers.

Even as government services improve, it’s unclear whether it will pay off politically for Biden, whose efforts to steer the economy towards the strongest growth since 1984 have been eclipsed by inflation.

About a third of Americans called the economy “good” under the president’s presidency, up from 47% in June, according to a poll this month by the AP-NORC Research Center for Public Affairs. The poll found that 48% approve of Biden, while 51% disapprove of him.

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Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed reporting.

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