Closing the Gaps - May 8, 2020 Newsletter

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People don’t fall through the cracks as much as they get stuck in gaps.

The gap between documents required for the application process and the awareness to bring them to the interview. Or the gap between multiple programs with similar but not the same eligibility requirements, leading to many separate applications. And the gap between the technology tools that make an application process faster and the ability of an agency to implement because of cost or policy.

In the era of COVID-19, “social distancing,” the term of the moment, is creating gaps essential for our personal health and community safety. Other gaps need to be closed.

We think the term and mindset of “closing the gaps” — like the ones just mentioned — should be just as imperative as social distancing. The more that agencies and organizations can work together to close three kinds of gaps right now, the greater the impact on the health and well-being of millions of families in the next several months.

Communication gaps

Whether through limited access to information in the appropriate language, limited outreach, or lack of knowledge regarding how people receive and respond to information, communication gaps can result in eligible individuals not receiving the information they need in a timely or helpful way – and consequently in their inability to access or retain services for which they qualify. See our Best Tech Tools for agencies for a quick list on ways we can close this gap right now.

Coordination gaps

Many, if not most, individuals who qualify for one benefit most likely qualify for others, but accessing those programs often involves separate application processes. Different programs often require different information, or have different eligibility/income criteria, resulting in applicant confusion about what information is needed for each program. See our Linkages tool for an interactive view on how data can be used to streamline people’s access to multiple programs.

Compassion gaps

Understanding how people really live, and applying that understanding to the design of processes, policy, and technology has become more commonplace in the private sector.

For people without access to high-speed internet, or who are juggling the multiple traumas of unemployment, lack of healthcare and food, the stakes are high when processes and tools to access help aren’t designed for the ways they actually live and work. How can we make sure the application process isn’t yet another burden on the people who need the most help? Our Digital Toolkit for WIC agencies has many ideas appropriate for other programs and agencies, too, all with the understanding that we have to start from the idea that applying for help should be dignified and efficient.