Document Name: States, Locals, & Other Partners (9 of 23)
Date: 09/01/94
Owner: National Performance Review
Title: Standards for Our Customers: States, Locals, & Other Partners (9 of 23)

Author: Vice President Al Gore's National Performance Review

Date: September, 1994


CUSTOMER GROUP: States, Localities, and Other Partners


Improving our service to state and local government offices is good

for us, good for you, and good for the public we both serve.

-- Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala

John Dryer of Boeing, charged with helping 19,000 laid-off workers

find new jobs, was apprehensive about working with the Employment and

Training Administration of the Department of Labor in Seattle,

Washington. He expected "a lot of bureau-cratic paperwork and red

tape." But his experience turned out to be quite different. "From our

first meeting with Region Ten, it was clear that things had changed,"

he said. "They demonstrated their first priority was customer

service. . . . It's just been fantastic to see the partnership that

has been established between the union, the company, the state

government, the federal government."

Partnership? Partners as customers? These are new and difficult ideas

in the federal government, but they are central to the customer

service revolution. In areas as diverse as Medicaid and highways, the

federal government provides dollars -- an estimated $217 billion in

grants to states and localities in the last 12 months. However, it is

non-federal and even non-governmental organizations that actually

deliver these services to the millions of individuals and families

who benefit. In other cases, as with Boeing's dislocated workers,

there are multiple sources of funding and resources for related


The numbers of people receiving benefits through such partnerships

are enormous. Last year:

--- 34 million people received Medicaid benefits.

--- 27 million people received food stamps.

--- 25 million children were fed school lunches.

--- 14 million children and families received financial assistance.

--- 11 million students got college loans or grants.

--- 8 million workers received unemployment benefits.

--- 7.5 million elderly were given support through such programs as

Meals on Wheels.

--- 6 million children were fed school breakfasts.

The customer-driven approach to such programs paid off in Seattle.

The partners are delighted. They have worked together, broken down

barriers, solved problems, and established a pair of one-stop

reemployment service centers. The affected workers are even more

pleased. Karen Ayers, who had been laid off after 13 years with

Boeing, likened the services offered at the one-stop centers to a

shopping mall for unemploy-ment services: "It took the pain out of

being unemployed."

While progress is real in Seattle, most of the time state, local, and

tribal governments and other nongovernmental entities don't feel much

like partners of the federal government, much less customers. As one

state official observed, the intergovernmental system for delivering

services has "broken down in a tangle of good intentions. . . . [It]

stifles initiative and squanders resources without achieving

sufficient results." The National Performance Review concluded, "The

failure to see the intergovernmental system from the perspective of

the citizen-customer . . . perpetuates inefficiency and wastes time,

effort, and money."

Things Are Starting To Change


Federal agencies are starting to rethink their relationships with

their partners. They are starting to listen to them. They are

starting to work together to set standards for their mutual

customers. And they are starting to cut through the red tape that can

be so frustrating and costly to their partners.

The Department of Health and Human Services relies on its partners --

state, local, and tribal governments, a range of grantees and

contractors, and many others -- to deliver services as diverse as

Head Start and Medicaid. Alan Rivlin, a member of the department's

customer service team, describes its approach to reinventing its

relationship with its partners: "First, we improve service to our

partners -- listening to their views, giving them timely accurate

information, and so on. Second, we work with our partners to get

input from the ultimate customers we serve jointly, so that together

we can deliver the quality service they deserve."

The same approach can work for other agencies. The Employment

Training Administration is building on its experience in Seattle and

elsewhere. It is developing customer service plans and standards for

dislocated workers with its state and local partners in 100 "pioneer


The Department of Education sees state and local government,

educational institutions, teachers, parents, and businesses as its

partners in a common mission: ensuring excellence in and access to

education for their customers -- learners of all ages. The department

is listening to its partners. Two messages come through loud and

clear: reduce overly burdensome paperwork and give partners more

timely responses. Change is coming: States can use a two-page

application for funding under the new Goals 2000: Educate America

Act, and they can expect written responses within 15 days of


The Department of Housing and Urban Development also works primarily

through partners -- in its case, states, local governments, public

housing authorities, and nonprofit organizations. The Office of

Community Planning and Development looks to its front-line employees

to work with communities to prepare community development plans. The

office encourages giving local partners all possible flexibility. It

also set a standard for timeliness that should please its partners

who submit plans for approval: "The plan will be deemed approved 60

days after the department receives the plan, unless before that date,

the department has notified the jurisdiction otherwise."

The Environmental Protection Agency is working with one of its

partners, the State of Massachusetts, to combine three different

federally mandated inspections into one. Instead of three inspectors

and three inspections -- one each for air, water and waste -- the new

flexible plan lets Massachusetts use a single inspector. This saves

time, paper-work, and money for the state and reduces aggravation for

the site owners.

Although these individual agencies are making important efforts,

partners and their customers often don't deal just with a single

federal agency or program. Taking the perspective of the customer in

these cases means involving several agencies to simplify the way the

customer interacts with the federal government overall.

Reducing Red Tape


Cutting across bureaucratic lines to slash red tape and get the job

done is hard work. Nevertheless, this must happen to make customer

service a reality. There are some promising starts.

As in most big cities, many people in Atlanta, Georgia, are eligible

for several benefits, such as Medicaid, food stamps, and housing. To

apply for the various benefits, they had to travel around the city

from one agency to another, wait in long lines, and puzzle through a

different application form for each program.

But now, Atlanta's Common Access Project team has created a single,

all-purpose application covering six programs. The team, composed of

federal and state people from these programs, reduced 64 pages of

forms to eight; they're working to get it even shorter. They trained

counselors to help people fill out the forms. The counselors even go

out to the neighborhoods so that people can apply right in their

homes. The Common Access Project is just starting, but customers have

already been surprised and pleased to learn they only need to fill

out a single form to apply for several programs.

In South Dakota, an intergovernmental panel is working with the

Ogalala Sioux Tribe to try to reinvent service delivery. The Bureau

of Indian Affairs has asked all federal agencies to explore one-stop

shopping for the tribal governments that deal with them. Although it

is still early, the idea of one-stop shopping could lead to a single

application and funding package for more than 28 federal programs

that provide services to 2 million American Indian people through

their tribal governments.

Congress is also beginning to recognize the need to reduce the burden

that separate federal funding streams, with their separate reporting

and administrative requirements, can impose on states, local, and

tribal governments. The School to Work Opportunities Act is an

innovative effort to work with states to give kids the skills they

need to go on in school, get jobs, and start careers. The act lets

states combine funds from several federal programs in the Departments

of Education and Labor under some conditions. It also lets the

secretaries of those departments waive certain statutory and

regulatory requirements to achieve the purposes of the act.

Forming New Partnerships


Some states are taking the initiative to make the state/federal

relationship work better. Indiana and West Virginia have made plans

to consolidate services to children and families. Indiana wants, for

example, to coordinate nearly 200 federal programs in six different

federal departments. Both states have sought and obtained endorsement

from President Clinton for their plans.

In Oregon, state, county, and local governments have been working as

partners for several years to agree on and work to achieve such

urgent statewide goals as child immunization, educational

achievement, and teenage pregnancy prevention. Now, Oregon has asked

federal agencies to be partners to achieve these goals. State, local,

and federal officials are looking for ways to cut through unnecessary

red tape, use existing resources more effectively, and improve the

performance of programs aimed at achieving these results.

These cases are only examples. However, they are examples to build

on, and as they succeed, extend to other partners. The key to their

success will lie in keeping the focus on the ultimate customers.

President Clinton said as much when he endorsed the Indiana and West

Virginia plans: "Govern-ments don't raise children; families do."


Highlights from Customer Service Standards

Department of Defense

The Department of Defense has set standards that communities whose

bases are closed can count on. For example:

--- An expert from the Office of Economic Adjustment will contact

your community within 24 hours of the community's request for help.

--- If your community needs a planning grant, OEA will help them fill

out the application and then get them an answer within seven days.

--- Your correspondence is answered within two weeks, and all Base

Closure Status Report issues get resolved within one month.

Defense is continuing to refine its standards and to cover additional

areas, including property transfer and environmental cleanup. It will

gather information from all available sources to design a customer-

driven system that produces the fastest, fullest recovery possible.


Working with Communities to Solve Problems


Sometimes it is the need to face a common problem that links the

federal government with its partners.

The Conflict Prevention and Resolution Program of the Department of

Justice helps communities prevent and deal with racial, ethnic and

other tension, such as possible conflict associated with the influx

of immigrants or ethnic or racial tensions in schools. Time is of the

essence when tension is mounting or a community is already dealing

with a crisis. The program has set standards that promise communities

on-site services in major racial or ethnic crises within 24 hours of

notification, and at least a contact within three days in non-crisis

situations. (The section on "Law Enforcement" describes this program

more fully.)

Similarly, the Department of Defense is working with communities

affected by Defense downsizing. Military bases drive the economy of

nearby communities; they are often the biggest employers in the

entire state. When a base closes, the local community needs economic

recovery fast. Planned base closings could affect as many as 70

million Americans in communities across the country. The President

and the Defense Department have made economic recovery a top

priority. Their plan for revitalizing base closure communities

consists of five parts: job-centered property disposal, easy access

to transition and redevelopment help, fast-track environmental

cleanup, transition coordinators to cut red tape, and larger economic

development planning grants.


Your Standards

These agencies and offices are publishing customer service standards

for intergovernmental and other partners. The standards appear in the

"States, Localities, and Other Partners" section of Appendix B.

Department of Defense

Economic Adjustment Assistance

Economic Security

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Department of Energy

Energy Resources

Department of Health and Human Services

Health Care Financing Administration

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Community Planning and Development

Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity

Office of Housing/Federal Housing Authority

Department of the Interior

Bureau of Indian Affairs

Office of Territorial and International Affairs

Department of Labor

Employment and Training Administration

Mine Safety and Health Administration

Department of Transportation

National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration

Agency for International Development

Environmental Protection Agency

EPA Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Pollution Prevention and


Solid Waste and Emergency Response

Water Grants Management (States and Tribes)



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