President's Advisory Council Advocates Increasing Access to Benefits

Mar 12, 2010

by Josh Bone

On March 11, 2010, President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships released its final report.  The Council recommends improving access to government benefits such as SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), TANF cash assistance, veterans' benefits, child nutrition benefits, and the EITC, as a means to reducing poverty.  The Council explains that faith-based and neighborhood organizations often work with people who are in great need but do not receive government assistance and that they can play a crucial role in ensuring that people have access to benefits.

The report includes four recommendations for how the Administration can improve access:

  1. convene an inter-department task force to create a more efficient, centralized system for establishing eligibility for government benefits;
  2. pool resources from different agencies to create sites where people can receive information about and apply for several different types of benefits at the same time;
  3. create and use software programs that will allow people to apply for all government benefits online with a minimum of repetitive data entry; and
  4. reward states for providing benefits to a greater number of eligible low-income families and individuals.

We commend the Council for recognizing the role of benefits in alleviating poverty.  Its recommendations build on promising state and local practices in this area.  We hope that the Administration will take the Council's recommendations seriously and show federal leadership in overcoming barriers to participation.

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