GovBenefits launches first phase
- By Diane Frank
- Apr 30, 2002
The Labor Department and the Office of Management and Budget launched the
GovBenefits Web site April 29, representing the first e-government initiative
conceived by the Quicksilver interagency task force to reach initial operating
This first version of the Web site (www.GovBenefits.gov) has information on 55 benefits programs from 10 federal agencies
that distribute about $1 trillion in benefits payments. Over the next year
and a half, it will expand to more than 300 programs from federal, state
and local agencies, said D. Cameron Findlay, deputy secretary of Labor,
the managing partner agency for the initiative.
"This is a very important initiative. It's one that will help citizens
break down the artificial barriers in our government," he said.
The GovBenefits initiative and Web site are models for how the other
e-government initiatives will come into being under the Bush administration's
E-Government Strategy, said Mark Forman, assistant director for information
technology and e-government at OMB. All of the initiatives will start with
"an initial look at a tool that makes government uncomplicated," and will
move into the full operating capability over time, he said.
Several other e-government initiatives should be released in their initial
version late in May, and one possibly will be released in early June, Forman
The GovBenefits site follows the "three clicks to service" model laid
out by the FirstGov governmentwide Web portal and is organized "the way
citizens see the world," Findlay said. The site is intended for citizens
to use directly or indirectly through caseworkers, citizen groups or agencies
reached via a toll-free call center, he said.
Citizens first choose from a list of potential beneficiary categories,
and those choices determine the yes-or-no questions the site poses to match
the users to the programs for which they might be eligible. Once that is
determined, the site displays the description of those programs and contact
information at the appropriate agency.
The questions are written in plain English by the program offices at
the agencies, including the Social Security Administration, the Department
of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
So far Labor and its team have spent about $1 million on the initiative,
including money provided by OMB from the cross-agency e-government fund,
Phase 2 for the initiative is to enable online application for the benefits
programs, but that is much more complex and involves many legal issues,
such as collecting personal information from citizens, Hugler said. That
phase will not start until the description and contract information for
most of the benefits programs are included on the site, he said.