The Biden administration took steps to make government services easier, more accessible and streamlined for Americans across agencies through an executive order President Joe Biden signed Monday afternoon.
“Bureaucracies assume that people understand how they function but it’s really a very complicated web for the vast majority of people, whether they have PhDs or high school education,” the President said from the Oval Office. “And so today I’m signing an executive order to ensure that the federal government puts you, the American people, at the front of the line.”
The order aims to improve the customer experience on a variety of services run by the government that can be frustrating and time-consuming; for instance, waiting in line at the airport, renewing your passport, filing taxes, the process of retiring, paying back student loans, applying for a small business loan, changing your name and using telehealth services.
Biden said the order would direct 17 agencies to focus on more than 30 key areas “to make it easier to apply for services and benefits that they’re entitled to, they paid for, it’s theirs.”
He singled out Medicare sign up, student loan servicing and address changes, saying they could all be easier.
“The bottom line is we’re going to make the government work more effectively … so it’s not as confusing and it’s straightforward,” Biden said. “This will go a long way to restoring faith in government, and I know it sounds like a simple thing, but I think it’s pretty consequential.”
The efforts, led by the Office of Management and Budget and impacting agencies across the government, will work to eliminate a variety of hassles for the public. It is coming to fruition at the President’s request.
“This work really stems from the President’s interest, whether it’s in legislation or for the work of the federal government, he’s always focused on ensuring that programs are working. When he asks a question about a policy idea, it’s often around how will this work in people’s lives, and that really animates this executive order, which is about ensuring that the government is working as effectively as efficiently to serve the public,” senior adviser Neera Tanden said ahead of the signing.
OMB’s Deputy Director for Management, Jason Miller, told reporters the executive order will direct over 30 specific actions by 17 different federal agencies that are expected to be completed in the “near term,” starting in the coming months but finished within one year.
“The President’s action today makes clear that he is expecting all of the leaders across this administration to prioritize customer experience ensuring that our services are designed and delivered from the perspective of those they serve,” Miller added.
The reform efforts are organized around major life experiences, from having a child to surviving a natural disaster.
“Those are moments where people — where individuals may need to interact with the federal government in a really critical way and a really critical moment, but also may need to interact with multiple agencies. It’s a process that should be simple and seamless. We’re one enterprise and we should operate accordingly,” Miller said.
There are also ongoing efforts led by OMB to establish processes with major government service providers and to measure performance and develop improvement plans.
All of the new actions will be taken with existing resources and capabilities, Miller said.
The order will allow Americans to renew their passports online, a process that right now requires printing, a visit to a post office and the use of a paper check.
It will make changes so that tax filers will be able to schedule a customer support call-back when they are trying to reach the IRS for help. Last year, only 3% of callers successfully reached a person when dialing the most used IRS toll-free number. The National Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent organization within the IRS, called it the “poorest service ever.”
The order aims to streamline federal student loan payment to one online portal so that borrowers can apply for, manage and repay their loans without having to visit multiple websites. It will also simplify the application process for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which grants debt relief to some public workers after they pay 10 years of monthly payments.
It will make it easier to update your address with the federal government and other federal and state entities.
It will also allow individuals to change their names without an in-person visit to a Social Security Administration office, as well as simplify the process for new retirees to claim their Social Security benefits online.
The order aims to make it easier for those experiencing poverty to access the number of social safety net benefits they might be eligible for. Currently, the lowest-income individuals can be the hardest for the federal government to reach — especially if they are not required to file taxes because their income is too low. For instance, millions of eligible people may have missed out on the federal stimulus payments sent throughout the pandemic because the government didn’t know how to reach them.
Biden signs the executive order Monday afternoon in the Oval Office, where he will be joined by Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, Small Business Administration Administrator Isabel Guzman, acting Social Security Administration Commissioner Dr. Kilolo Kijakazi, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, TSA Administrator David Pekoske, and Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Donald Remy.
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