Reinventing Government to Get Results Americans Care About
Accomplishments, Customer Stories, and Commitments
Fighting Food Stamp Fraud – Electronic Benefits Transfer
Yvette Jackson, Assistant Secretary for Food and Nutrition Services, Department of Agriculture
Results We’re Celebrating: States are saving millions and cracking down on fraud through EBT. In 1994 when the Vice President’s report From Paper to Electronic—Creating a Benefit Delivery System that Works Better and Costs Less was released, only a handful of states were testing EBT systems. Since then, EBT has begun rapid deployment nationwide. Today, 30 states have operating EBT systems — 16 statewide — and 40% of food stamp recipients get their benefits electronically. The EBT Food Stamp Program is saving money. States have reported savings of over $12 million since 1994. Further, EBT has provided a valuable way to monitor food stamp transactions and target beneficiaries and retailers suspected of fraud.
The Customer: Melba Price, from Missouri’s Department of Social Services, chairs the Southern Alliance of States, a unique partnership endorsed by the Vice President for a single state/federal benefit card, and the first EBT project to use the open commercial framework. Missouri saves $2 million a year and aggressively reviews electronic records to ferret out fraud. Missouri’s EBT program will be statewide in May for both food stamps and temporary assistance for needy families.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration -- Making Workplaces Safer
Charles Jeffress, Assistant Secretary
Results We’re Celebrating: Worker safety is the best in U.S. history thanks, in no small measure, to a new spirit of partnership between OSHA, business owners, and workers. Started in Maine, now in nine states, and soon nation-wide, these new partnerships are eliminating thousands of workplace hazards before people get hurt. In North and South Dakota, for example, injury rates have already dropped 50%.
The Customer: Jeff Davis, president of Wisconsin Box Company in Wausau, Wisconsin, says the new partnership works better and costs less than the old adversarial approach. In 1994, when OSHA was just looking for violations, 72 Wisconsin Box workers were injured on the job. But in the new partnership, with the company and the workers active participants in the safety program, no one has lost a day to injury in three years. Starting the program cost money but it has more than paid for itself in lower insurance premiums and higher productivity.
Environmental Protection Agency – Uncommonly Good Results from Common Sense.
Fred Hansen, Deputy Administrator
Results We’re Celebrating: Companies across America are doing more than laws and regulations require to protect the environment. In 1994, EPA called a truce in its adversarial relationship with business and launched the Common Sense Initiative, an offer to collaborate with a variety of industries. For example, the voluntary goals agreed to by the metal finishing industry — cutting chemical releases by 75% and hazardous waste by 40% — now are being pursued by 3,000 small businesses and 8,000 operations in large manufacturing plants. In return for better environmental results, these businesses will get to increase recycling and avoid more expensive treatment and disposal requirements under the Resource Conservation Recovery Act. The CSI encompasses over 40 such projects that are improving the economy and the environment.
The Customer: Mr. B.J. Mason, owner of Mid-Atlantic Finishing in Capital Heights, Maryland, helped broker the groundbreaking agreement for his industry. He says he remembers when the government’s environmentalists "treated business owners like they were evil, horned creatures with ugly facial sores" — and the feeling was mutual. Now they are working together with mutual trust and respect.
The Commitment: Improving Environmental Performance of Key Industrial Sectors. EPA will continue to work in partnership with the metal finishing industry to fulfill its goal of cutting toxic pollution by 75 percent. Using this approach as a model, by the year 2000, EPA will expand sector-based approaches to help other industries achieve similar reductions and lower compliance costs.
Student Loans -- Applying for Federal Financial Aid Electronically
David Longenecker, Assistant Secretary for Post-Secondary Education
Results We’re Celebrating: Free, fast, and easy application for student loans on the Department of Education web site (www.fafsa.ed.gov). Tens of thousands of students have used it since it went on line last June. Filling out the electronic form takes most people only half the time they’d spend on a paper application because the system figures out which questions apply to you and skips the others. It checks your answers on the spot for completeness and consistency so the government doesn’t have to return your application with more questions (one out of ten paper applications get returned). And e-mail is even faster than USPS. The on-line application won the prestigious "Lycos Top 5 Percent of the Web" award. That means it’s way cool.
The Customer: Bill Healy, financial aid director at Northwood University in Midland, Michigan, is a big fan of the application on the web recommending it to students and his colleagues at other schools. Nick Vaughn, a father of two who’s back in school for a business degree, was the first Northwood student to apply electronically. He had used the long, slow, paper system before and was really surprised this time to get his loan approved in about a week.
The Commitment: Because of its clear benefits to students and taxpayers, the department of Education is seeking to further encourage the use of electronic applications.
Internal Revenue Service – Easier Access and Better Service
Charles Rossotti, Commissioner
Results We're Celebrating: IRS's customer service is way better than last year. Half the callers got busy signals last year — this year, 9 out of 10 get through. Well over twice as many people have gotten forms straight from the IRS web site, and 25% more people are filing by phone so they can get their refunds faster.
Customers who want to come into an IRS office to solve a tax problem don’t have to take a day off work anymore. In 33 cities nationwide, IRS is open for problem solving on Saturday once a month. People who have gone have been pleasantly surprised with the results.
Social Security – World Class Customer Service
Ken Apfel, Commissioner
Results We’re Celebrating: The Social Security Administration (SSA) is the best in the business at delivering service over the phone, and they do it 70 million times a year. In a 1995 independent survey, Dalbar Financial Services ranked SSA over companies like Disney and LL Bean in courtesy, responsiveness and knowledge. Since then, SSA has gotten even better and other agencies and companies have been coming to them for lessons.
The Customer: Jane Barton of Mesa, Arizona, is a widow with three daughters. Eight years ago, when her husband died, SSA’s service was what you might expect from government —busy signals, long waits, and bureaucrats. But what a difference when Jane called SSA last month! A cheerful, courteous, SSA operator, Bonnie Szczawinski, answered all of Jane’s questions quickly, and then answered questions Jane wouldn’t have thought to ask. Jane has worked as an insurance adjuster and knows how hard it is to deliver good service to distraught customers. She says SSA is doing it right.
The Commitment: Jane Barton might be satisfied, but SSA isn’t.
U.S. Postal Service -- Getting Your Mail Faster and At Low Cost
Marvin Runyon, Postmaster General
Results We’re Celebrating: The U.S. Postal Service has improved on-time delivery of local First Class Mail from 79% nationwide in 1994 to 92% today. In the past several years, the Postal Service has focused on its customers and that has led to record service performance. With improved service and stable rates, the Postal Service has chalked up cumulative earnings of $4.6 billion and cut its debt by 40%.
The Customer: Kelly Smith is the chief financial officer of Replacements Ltd. in Greensboro NC. If you need china, crystal, or flatware in a discontinued pattern, Replacements Ltd. is the one to call. Once they find your hard-to-find item, they want to get it to you fast and in one piece. Kelly says they have tried FedEx, UPS, and others, but nobody is as cheap and dependable as the US Postal Service. As CFO, Kelly also likes USPS’s quick delivery of customer payments, making "the check’s in the mail" an obsolete excuse. Like small businesses all across America, Replacements Ltd. puts their future in the hands of the best — the United States Postal Service.
Federal Emergency Management Agency – Serving Americans Faster
Maurice Goodman, Director of Communications, FEMA
Results We’re Celebrating: FEMA is there when you need them, not like in the early 90’s when FEMA itself was a disaster. Congress had considered abolishing it then because it just wasn’t much help in an emergency. But in recent years, over two million Americans in thousands of communities have turned to FEMA in the wake of earthquake, storms, and floods, and have gotten quick, compassionate help every time. Strong customer focus and modern technology have made FEMA one of our finest reinvention successes.
The Customer: Dennis Eggebraaten, a police lieutenant from Grand Forks, North Dakota, was a victim of last year’s Red River floods, his house under 19 feet of muddy water. He says that FEMA had been there even before the rains came, warning people to buy good insurance policies; he’s glad he took their advice. When the flood hit, FEMA came back quickly to help his family recover. Lieutenant Eggebraaten, who worked in the command center alongside FEMA, praises the professional way they helped the entire city of Grand Forks.
Helping Employers and Job Seekers – One-Stop Career Centers
Kitty Higgins, Deputy Secretary of Labor
Results We’re Celebrating: Job seekers can now find help in 515 One-Stop Career Centers in 24 States. All in one place, you can get: information about local, state and national labor markets; job and career resource room with computers, faxes and telephones; job listings; hiring requirements; job referral and placement; information on the availability and quality of education and training programs; initial screening for training eligibility; testing and assessment; job search skills; recruitment and pre-screening of qualified applicants; easy access to post job listing on America’s Job Bank; job and industry growth trends and forecasts; wage data and other valuable labor market information; and compliance information on federal laws.
The Customer: A former welfare recipient, Yutiv Lipscomb was referred to the Southwest Career Center by the Maryland Department of Social Services in 1996. She was quickly selected for training at the NAACP national headquarters in Baltimore. From switchboard operator to work in the chief operating officer’s office, she distinguished herself with exemplary clerical skills. In January 1997, Ms. Lipscomb was asked by Kweisi Mfume to take a full time job in his office as his personal secretary.