Work Support Strategies in Idaho: Reflections from Governor Butch Otter
It is an honor to live in the great State of Idaho where our citizens are energized and engaged in growing our economy, improving our communities, caring for our families and neighbors, and responding to the rapidly changing environment around us. While some parts of America are still emerging from the Great Recession, Idaho has gained a national reputation for stability and strength.
We remain focused on making wise investments that have contributed to dynamic economic growth and more people working than at any time in Idaho’s history. Wages are rising and employer demand for skilled workers is growing. That has led to a steady decline in the number of families needing public assistance.
However, even with improving economic conditions and more career opportunities, we continue to face the critical challenge of helping our most vulnerable citizens improve their lives. In 2013, I issued a report on many of the initiatives we had undertaken to move families and individuals into the workforce. This partnership with the Urban Institute and the Ford Foundation was an important venture to build public assistance programs in ways that move individuals and families more effectively into work and self-reliance while reducing government administration and taxpayer costs.
We are pleased to report that these initiatives have not only produced better performance outcomes at lower costs, but also have produced better results for families. Our experience shows that well-designed business solutions, consistently applied by a State agency, can make a real difference:
1. No application delays and immediate eligibility decisions: Nearly 80 percent of our applications for public assistance, Medicaid, SNAP, Child Care, or TANF are processed the same day the customer applies. Intelligent use of a chaotic universe of State and federal interfaces and streamlining the eligibility process that consumes that data has reduced the complexity of the eligibility process, cut wait times and broken down barriers to access.
2. Improving Child Care: Child Care program improvements, including restructuring the co-pay system and integrating program solutions, have ensured more families can afford quality child care for their children while they return to work or school.
3. Creating the right technology tools: Idaho has invested in more cloud-based services and tools which improve case management and enable customers to connect with our agencies in multiple ways, reducing barriers to services and helping families quickly get back on their feet.
4. Integrated business designs: Streamlined policy and operational improvements have virtually eliminated churn in our Medicaid program and ensured that individuals have access to health coverage when they are eligible. Idaho also built a very successful, integrated model for our State Health Insurance Exchange, which leveraged technology and infrastructure from our Medicaid program to keep costs low for our Idaho solution. This approach helped Idaho build an effective model with some of the lowest costs and highest performance levels in the country.
5. Coordinating services: Coordinating community resources and strengthening employment and training services have helped us better connect low-income individuals to job and training opportunities that put them on a path to self-reliance. We are working together across industries and agencies to fill jobs and get people back to work.
6. Next Generation Customer Service: Built on a simple and low-cost technology platform, our Live Better Idaho service (livebetteridaho.org), builds critical bridges for families to access many services and work supports across multiple state agencies with simple online navigation. This empowers citizens to make their own decisions about how to improve their lives. What’s more, the Live Better Idaho platform enables community, faith-based and non-profit providers to make all their services visible to all support organizations throughout Idaho.
Idaho has found that investing in strategic improvements to systems, technology and policy results in more innovation and effective governance. Idaho’s example shows that government can operate effectively at lower costs and with better results. Cost-effective administration and living within taxpayers’ means is the responsibility of government. So too is providing access to such support systems as health coverage, food and nutrition assistance, child care services, and employment and job training. Seizing opportunities to improve government services while providing critical support to almost one in three Idahoans every year helps us pave paths out of poverty and into Idaho’s thriving economy.
We remain committed to reflecting and encouraging Idaho’s spirit of self-determination and independence, so we appreciate the partnership and knowledge gained through our involvement in the Work Support Strategies efforts. The results were significant and have set an important foundation for continued improvements to our programs and administration as we serve and support Idaho families.
As Always—Idaho “Esto Perpetua”
C.L. “Butch” Otter
Governor of Idaho