The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced today a new initiative that will leverage technology to help streamline service delivery by the Federal government at some of the most critical moments in people’s lives.  


OMB’s nine Life Experience projects aim to positively impact the customer experience of the American people during critical moments like having a child and early childhood for low-income families; facing a financial shock; recovering from a disaster; navigating the transition to civilian life; and approaching retirement.


“Too often, Americans are forced to navigate a tangled web of Government websites, offices, and phone numbers to access the services that they depend on – whether recovering from a disaster, navigating retirement, or having a child,” the agency said.


OMB’s announcement today builds on the Executive Order President Biden signed during his first year in office in December 2021. The EO directed government leaders to better account for the experiences of the public, particularly at moments they need the government to work most.


Five of OMB’s nine pilot projects include technological provisions – like data management and digital solutions – to help customers access what they need from the government seamlessly and efficiently. 


Recovering From a Disaster


An increasing number of Americans face natural disasters each year, yet they often lack the support necessary to fully recover, OMB said. The agency is implementing a project that will pilot the use of data management to calculate a more holistic burden estimate.


OMB will partner with agencies like HUD and the Small Business Administration (SBA) to create an “end-to-end view of the effort required of disaster survivors and small business owners to apply for, maintain, and receive Federal disaster assistance benefits.” 


The holistic burden estimate provides a baseline measure to calculate the impact of improvement efforts. The project will also support government-wide efforts by piloting a burden baseline calculator, allowing agencies to use data to pinpoint high-burden areas to improve.


OMB noted that a target milestone for the agency is building the calculator this year. 


Having a Child and Early Childhood for Low-Income Families


Many eligible low-income families have challenges accessing the government programs and resources that exist to help them thrive after a baby is born, OMB explained. The difficulty of knowing what programs exist and navigating complicated application processes prevents existing critical benefits – such as healthcare, food, housing, and affordable childcare – from reaching families.


OMB is implementing a project that will pilot text message notifications for critical updates to the benefits enrollment and renewal process. 


The project will collaborate with agencies like the Departments of Health and Human Service and Agriculture to pilot a Federal notification service that will enable Federal benefits programs to use text messages to send reminders to subscribers at crucial points throughout the benefits enrollment and renewal process.


The agency plans to partner with three benefits programs to send the first pilot messages via the notification service in 2023.


Facing a Financial Shock


Because of sometimes complex and burdensome application systems, millions of American families miss out on help getting food, health insurance, and other supports to establish economic stability for themselves and their children when facing a financial shock like an unexpected medical bill or loss of income, the agency explained.  


The improving Federal data services for benefits delivery project seeks to improve access to benefits for people facing financial shock by improving underlying data services and systems. 


Applicants and state staff must often manually verify an applicant’s income to determine eligibility for benefits, a burdensome and time-consuming process, OMB said. By improving verification services and the quality of data coverage, the government can better leverage existing systems to streamline the customer experience of accessing available services while maintaining complete verification requirements. 


This project would require OMB to collaborate with agencies like the Treasury Department and the Social Security Administration. 


Navigating Transition to Civilian Life


“Approximately 200,000 Service members leave the military each year and must reorient their lives, including employment, relationships, finances, and housing,” OMB said. “Existing research shows that navigating the military transition can be burdensome and confusing for Veterans, their families, and their supporters.”


The agency aims to partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs, among others, to prototype a new digital solution that provides customized and integrated information for service members. The service transition elements – like education, career, family, finance, health, and housing – will be individualized based on potential career pathways, service tenure, and service separation date.


The OMB aims to define the minimum viable product digital solution and the requirements for scaling this year.


Approaching Retirement 


Millions of Americans depend on Federal programs like Social Security and Medicare in retirement, OMB said. 


Increasing access to decision-making support for older adults will include a community stakeholder-centered design process to build and test an information and outreach model to help people make informed retirement and healthcare decisions through connections to trusted community-based resources.


Last year, Federal government leaders worked with the President’s Management Council to select priority areas of service delivery to focus on. After identifying these five life experiences, the administration engaged in extensive research to learn how people interact with the government during those moments and designed nine projects to address major challenges. 


This involved learning from and speaking directly to a diverse sample of members of the public and subject matter experts, OMB said. The collective work across the five experiences included connecting with 36 government agencies and talking to more than 500 people across 34 states and territories. 

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.