When the public health emergency ends and Medicaid, SNAP, and TANF waivers expire, will your human services agency be ready?
In a letter to states, The Secretary of Health and Human Services indicated the current public health emergency will likely remain in place for the entirety of 2021. The department will provide states with 60 days’ notice prior to termination. That might feel like an eternity right now, but consider everything that has changed since the beginning of the public health emergency:
- Continuous eligibility has created a backlog of renewals
- Expanded benefits have increased applications and caseloads
- Agencies plan to continue supporting hybrid or fully remote work
Whether the waivers expire in 60 days or not until the end of 2021, now is the time to get prepared to avoid a crisis, rather than invite one.
From what we’re hearing from our customers, there are five main areas your agency needs to focus on to prepare:
- Physically preparing the agency lobby for clients
- Preparing the office for some or all workers to return
- Adhering to program changes from the federal government
- Continue enabling remote work or telework
- Refine and improve document management and client engagement
While Northwoods can’t directly help you with everything, we can help your agency modernize technology and alleviate some stress and future mishaps in a few key areas (specifically remote work, document management, and client engagement).
We found resources and developed guidance to help in all five areas. Check them out.
Preparing the Lobby
As clients begin returning to your physical agency, certain aspects of your lobby will need updated:
- Clear signage about where to sit or stand in line to maintain social distancing and adhere to local requirements, such as mandated facial coverings.
- Check with your local or state department of health for printable signs. Here are resources from the Ohio Department of Health as an example.
- CDC has hundreds of COVID-19-related Print Resources that can be printed on a standard office printer. Here are a few of our favorites for human services:
- Signs.com has free, customizable, printable signs organized by category including “Masks Required,” “Maximum Occupancy,” and “Social Distancing.”
- Provide hand sanitizer in key areas: near seating, front desk, at document drop-off locations, interview rooms
- Redesign the lobby flow to accommodate social distancing and reduce time spent in the agency, while also improving client experience. (See how Northwoods helped Cabarrus County Department of Human Services modernize its lobby a few years ago.)
Preparing the Office
To create a safe and healthy workplace when employees return to the office, you may need to modify seating, intensify cleaning, or stagger start times.
- The CDC has recommendations and tools in its “COVID-19 Employer Information for Office Buildings” guide.
- GovLoop put together a comprehensive worksheet to help agencies prepare for staff to return to the office.
- We pulled together a COVID-19 Resource Roundup for Human Services with additional links.
Adhering to Program Changes
Local agencies will need to prepare for certain programmatic changes from the federal government once the public health emergency expires. Here are government-provided communications:
- U.S. Department of Agriculture announced an increase in Pandemic-EBT benefit by 15% and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services guidance to vendors and states:
- Letter to states to provide guidance on planning for the eventual return to regular operations, including ending temporary authorities
- Letter to vendors to provide information to vendors working with State Medicaid, CHIP, and BHP Agencies as they address the necessary IT systems efforts related to the conclusion of the public health emergency and the period of transition to regular operations that will follow.
Enabling Remote Work
When talking to our customers, most plan to enable hybrid or fully remote offices in the long-term even once the public health emergency has ended. To do this, agency leaders need technology that supports client self-service and digital communication alternatives to in-person visits. This is where our cloud-based client engagement software for economic assistance can help. Here’s how:
- Provide secure and reliable cloud-based access to case information and documents from anywhere, reducing storage and paper costs
- Allow caseworkers to shift between home and office work environments without losing productivity
- Allow supervisors to manage remote and distributed work
- Provide real-time and historical reporting on factors that give insight into worker productivity and quality
Reach out if you’d like to learn more.
Streamlining Processes and Client Engagement
Chances are your caseworkers are keeping pace with the current workload because you don’t have to process renewals right now. In addition, your agency can accept verifications over the phone instead of the usual verification documents.
But, when renewals return to regular operations, your agency is likely to see an uptick in mail, online document submissions, and face-to-face document drop-offs. Are your document management systems and processes going to hold up?
The key is to modernize your technology to streamline the application, renewal, and change processes so caseworkers aren’t overloaded and can focus on tasks that require a human’s attention. A modern document management solution will:
- Digitize and centralize case files by pulling in documents and data from multiple sources
- Simplify how caseworkers view and share documents and case information internally and externally
- Enable clients to communicate, submit documents, and fill out forms on their own time from wherever they are comfortable
- Automate repetitive, redundant work such as Medicaid renewals
Northwoods’ solutions built for economic assistance help digitize case files and automate routine business processes so your caseworkers can focus on high-value work. Reach out if you’d like to learn more.
|Rupam Chokshi believes that technology should always be rooted in solving problems. It is through this lens that Rupam approaches his role as director of market research, where he oversees market analysis and segmentation, product positioning and strategy, messaging and persona development, and competitive intelligence. Rupam takes pride in helping build solutions that solve HHS workers’ most critical problems and empower them to focus on the most important aspect of their jobs—their clients.|