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ACCESS NYC—a simple, yet powerful tool—is transforming the way human services are delivered to New York City’s neediest.
Under the leadership of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City is using technology to increase the transparency, accountability and accessibility of city government, focused on providing city services to an ever-broader constituency. To accelerate this objective, Mayor Bloomberg created the Integrated Human Services System (IHSS) Task Force to examine issues facing New York City’s human services agencies and identify ways in which technology might be employed to enhance and streamline service delivery, while making services more efficient and responsive to residents’ needs.
The Integrated Human Services System Task Force concluded that multiple city agencies operated disparate information systems that severely limited their ability to coordinate and deliver services to residents. Among those most affected: the estimated 19.1 percent of New York City residents who live below the poverty line and another 19 percent of the population with earnings between 100 percent and 199 percent of the poverty line.
Many of those residents are eligible for a range of city, state and federal human services programs, but are not enrolled because they:
It is estimated that only 72 percent of those eligible for food stamps, 89 percent of those eligible for Public Health Insurance and 80 percent of those eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are enrolled in benefits programs. New York City wanted to offer an online resource for those residents—a single point of entry that would provide access to information about human services programs and a convenient process for assessing eligibility and applying.
The city needed a trusted third party to help achieve its vision. Accenture was selected because of its deep experience helping public-sector clients create technology solutions that form the backbone of high-performance government. Accenture came to the project with more than 20 years of human services experience. Over the last 15 years, Accenture has successfully implemented more than 59 human services applications for government including numerous eligibility-related systems.
Working together with New York’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), Accenture helped design, develop and deploy ACCESS NYC, a public-facing online screening tool that allows New York City residents to quickly and easily determine their potential eligibility for 35 city, state and federal benefit programs across 15 different agencies. ACCESS NYC also was designed to provide essential information about the application process. This includes simplified steps on how to apply, find office location details, get information about required documentation, and print blank or partially populated printable application forms. The single point of entry was designed to allow residents to conveniently pre-screen for those programs anywhere, anytime, in seven different languages including: Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Haitian-Creole and English. New York City has plans to expand ACCESS NYC by offering additional online applications, enhanced eligibility and enrollment offerings, and integrated case management, which will give New York City a more holistic view of the customers it serves.
ACCESS NYC is based upon the Cúram Business Application Suite™, one of the leading commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) human services products from Cúram Software. Other technologies used include: an Oracle 10g R1 database, Sun Solaris 10 running on Sun SPARC servers, BEA WebLogic 9.1 application servers and Sun Java System 6.1 Web servers.
Accenture, working side-by-side with city, state and federal agencies, helped address issues surrounding policy, technology and legal/legislative barriers. For example, for some programs eligibility does not ensure enrollment. Other challenges included internal agency limitations to accept applications and integration with antiquated database systems.
Successful implementation of ACCESS NYC required significant cross-agency collaboration. Accenture took on the challenge of working to build consensus and cooperation with multiple organizations. Among them: the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, DoITT, 10 city agencies, four state agencies, one federal agency, community-based organizations, nonprofit agencies and advocacy communities.
For example, one of the implementation goals was to provide information and applications to citizens for the maximum number of programs without making the tool too cumbersome for users. With each proposed addition, leading agencies, subject matter experts, technology specialists and other users were surveyed to assure that a balance was maintained. Other activities included helping the planners consider issues such as long-term scalability and data security requirements.
By teaming with Accenture, New York City was able to introduce ACCESS NYC in September 2006, just 15 months after its inception. It was a pioneering deployment of technology to improve the delivery of human services. The true beneficiaries of ACCESS NYC are the 1.5 million residents—including 340,000 working New Yorkers—living in poverty. They now have a single point of access for information about 35 city, state and federal benefit programs.
ACCESS NYC provides access to and information about benefits available to assist and encourage low-wage workers to obtain and retain employment. By entering household information anonymously over a secure Internet connection, residents can receive a list of the programs for which they are potentially eligible, print partially complete applications, search for office locations and create an account to access their information at a later time. ACCESS NYC’s user interface is designed to meet the accessibility standards set by Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The new online tool, available after-hours on the Web, streamlines the application process—eliminating the need to take time off work or arrange for child care to apply in person. It saves the residents time by preventing them from answering the same questions on multiple application forms or applying for benefits that they are not likely eligible to receive. The new tool provides caseworkers with easy-to-read application forms—interpreting handwritten application forms can be challenging, so eliminating this effort saves time and energy. Computer-generated forms do not require data entry and are easy to read, saving valuable time and money.
Between September 2006 and November 2007, there were:
ACCESS NYC’s robust reporting tool provides more than 30 standard reports and the ability to create ad-hoc reports. These data collection capabilities will become invaluable as the city follows through on its future plans for expansion into electronic applications, integration with New York City’s 311 centralized call center operation and a proposed system for sharing client information among agencies. With such expansion in place, the city will be able to analyze data to improve service delivery and target resources toward areas with the greatest need.
ACCESS NYC has been recognized for its value to New York City through the following awards:
Below are some examples of what people are saying about ACCESS NYC:
“Earlier this year, we launched a bold plan to fight poverty anchored around two key goals: ‘Making work pay’ for those just starting up the economic ladder, and ‘Preparing willing New Yorkers to work.’ ACCESS NYC is going to help us achieve those goals by allowing more New Yorkers to more easily apply for the government benefits they need to gain self-sufficiency and climb out of poverty for good. That’s good for them—and that’s good for all New Yorkers.”- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, following the unveiling of ACCESS NYC
“ACCESS NYC has a very easy-to-use interface, even for those with only the most basic computer knowledge. In a simple three-step process, a life can be made a little more manageable.”- United Way of New York City’s Tech News article
Accenture’s research into the characteristics of high-performance businesses and governments has identified the traits that high-performance organizations share. Among them: a willingness to partner with third parties to extend capabilities. By teaming with Accenture to help bring ACCESS NYC to residents in need, New York City has taken a major step toward its goal of high-performance government.
To find out more about ACCESS NYC, please visit www.nyc.gov/accessnyc or contact either of the following:
Barry J. Webster(850) 513-3524
Patricia H. Donaldson(917) 452-8590
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