GovBenefits debut marks Bush administration’s first e-gov success
The site, GovBenefits.gov is the first of the Office of Management and Budget's 24 electronic government projects to go live and marks the initial success of the administration's e-government agenda as championed by Mark Forman, OMB's associate director for information technology and electronic government.
"This site helps citizens break down the artificial barriers in our government," Cameron Findlay, Labor's deputy secretary said when he unveiled the site. "Today it is way too complicated for a citizen to find the information they need in the federal government. It's unfair to ask a citizen to dissect the government."
Findlay said the designers of GovBenefits used the mantra of another federal Web portal, Firstgov.gov, as a model for the site. The mantra, "three clicks to service," means citizens can access the information they need with only three mouse clicks.
GovBenefits classifies users under 15 categories of government beneficiaries, such as parents, veterans, disaster victims and the unemployed. Once a citizen selects a category, the site asks a series of easily understandable "yes/no" questions such as, "Are you unemployed?" and "Were you dependent on the income of another family member but are no longer supported by that income?" After tabulating the responses to the questions, the site creates a list of programs for which the citizen may be eligible.
Ed Hugler, Labor's deputy assistant secretary for administration and management, said the site has an 80 percent success rate when it suggests which government benefits users may be eligible for. The site also provides contact information and Web links to the benefit programs.
The site aggregates the sources of a total of $1 trillion in government benefits. Currently the site pulls information on 55 government benefits programs. Administrators will add 30 to 40 new programs a month for a total of 300 programs.
Each of the administration's 24 e-government projects is coordinated by a single agency acting as a "managing partner." The Labor Department was GovBenefits' managing partner. The project also got help from the Agriculture, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, State and Veterans Affairs departments, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Social Security Administration. Labor's partners contributed staff, financing and a variety of information technology-related capabilities for the project. OMB contributed $800,000 to fund the project, but the total cost is unknown.
"We've been very focused on succeeding and set an extremely tight time frame for completing this project," Hugler said. "We said we'd do it on a private sector model, which means do it quick and continue to build and perfect it over time."