Every one of us has had to step outside our comfort zones this year—both personally and professionally. Human services workers have had the especially tough task of pivoting to keep up as the “new normal” and landscape for delivering services continues to change. The American Public Human Services Association (AHPSA) and Maximus hosted a webinar with state and county agency leaders to discuss what they’ve learned throughout the pandemic and how they’ll apply those lessons moving forward.
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has illuminated several gaps in how human services previously operated, but it has also helped agency leaders recognize opportunities to embrace a new vision for service delivery. APHSA and Maximus’ recent webinar aims to shed light on both the good and the bad.
Maximus conducted a survey of state and county leaders to better understand the most serious challenges for agencies, staff, and their clients amid COVID-19, as well as how this experience will impact their business in the future, unanticipated opportunities for program improvement, and major concerns for the coming year.
APHSA’s webinar revealed key results from the survey and gave agency leaders a platform to share their individual experiences and insights. Some notable insights:
- SNAP, TANF, and Medicaid programs have seen the most significant increase in applications.
- Over half (55%) of reporting agencies said they’re not prepared for federal waivers to expire.
- Agencies’ biggest concerns moving forward include managing surges, not meeting customer needs, and handling existing and increasing backlogs.
- Top priorities moving forward include processing applications timely, staff mental health and well-being, and supporting the remote/mobile workforce (even after the pandemic is over).
The challenges are plenty, but the survey also provides a glimpse of hope and positive outcomes, such as:
- Agencies have re-focused on identifying, sustaining, and enhancing their mission-critical initiatives on behalf of families.
- Customers have become comfortable and satisfied with accessing services in new ways.
- Shifting to telework has significantly benefitted several agencies and will continue.
- Agencies have leveraged COVID-19 to enhance flexibilities, improve access to reduce the stigma associated with economic assistance, and implement prevention services.
Watch the full webinar to hear more about what agencies have learned throughout the pandemic and how they’ll apply those lessons moving forward.
Leaders at both APHSA and Northwoods have published several resources related to these topics:
- A Path Forward: Investing in Human Services for a Strong and Equitable Economic Recovery [APHSA]
- Economic Assistance Technology Roadmap: Are You Heading in the Right Direction? [Northwoods]
- Managing Remote Teams in Child Welfare [Northwoods]
- Prioritizing Technology in Human Services and Preparing for What May Be Next [Northwoods]
- Special Statement: SNAP Administrative Relief [APHSA]