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Posted Thursday, March 18, 2021 by Rupam Chokshi

COVID Response Project: Lessons Learned [APHSA]

The COVID-19 pandemic led to human services agencies transforming operations and culture to keep supporting the communities they serve. The transformation of operations and culture may have happened quickly, but they will continue to have an impact on the local, state, and federal human services systems for years to come. APHSA partnered with ACF and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to document the real-time impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on state human services agencies and the lessons learned to help guide future policies and implementations.


Full summary:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, human services agencies have risen to meet the challenges presented by transforming operations and culture to continue to support family and community well-being. The pandemic will continue to have lasting effects on public health and the economy, so it’s essential that agencies use the upcoming months to look back on these innovations to learn more about what can be done in the future.

By looking back on the innovations and lessons learned during the past year, local, state, and federal human services agencies are well-positioned to use that information to inform future policy and program designs to best serve the community.

The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), in partnership with the Administration for Children & Families Office of Regional Operations and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, published a report documenting the real-time impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on state human services agencies, focusing on the lessons learned that will help to guide future efforts, changes, and policies.

This report includes a deeper dive into lessons learned on:

  1. Use of Waivers and Other Flexibilities
  2. Shift to Virtual Services
  3. Partnerships and Whole Family Approaches
  4. Resiliency and Emergency Planning

Many of these lessons learned spotlight the increased need for new and innovative technologies to help agencies continue to meet the needs of their current and future clients. Some of the most important insights we took away from this report were:

  • Agencies are waiving face-to-face interviews and allowing telephonic interviews. This is a step in the right direction and technology can aid this move, helping to make the change seamless.
  • Policy recommendations for dynamic waivers for key basic need programs are a great idea, as waivers that match local conditions have the potential of being more successful.
  • Increased use of web and mobile applications tells us that citizens are embracing electronic document uploads and live customer support.
  • While it may not sound monumental, whole-family-based policy recommendations for braided funding and staffing across programs has the potential to bring about many positive changes.
  • In terms of resiliency and emergency planning, having a positive perspective towards crisis will make us adaptive and resourceful when it comes to approaching future crises.

Download APHSA's full report for more information on the most important flexibilities, adaptations, and innovations made by human services agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic and recommendations for how these experiences can help to inform future policy and program design initiatives.

Download the full report here

Bonus content! Here are a few related resources and blogs related to helping agencies prepare for the future:  

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