The Urban Institute has announced that Rhode Island is among nine states selected to receive a $250,000 planning grant as part of a five-year initiative with lead funding from the Ford Foundation. The purpose of this one-year grant is to enable planning for more effective, streamlined, and integrated approaches to delivering key work support benefits to low-income families. Over the course of the next year, the nine states chosen will assess their current operations and develop plans for testing new ways of doing business. States that demonstrate an ability to execute their plans will compete for three-year implementation grants of up to $500,000 per year.
The Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS) applied for the grant at the end of 2010. The decision to compete for these funds grew out of the work of the Modernization Initiative led by the RI Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS). State agencies and a number of private human service organizations have been working together with the aim of easing access to and use of benefit programs such as RIWorks, Medicaid, Child Care Assistance, and SNAP through improved policies, business processes, and technology.
"I am pleased that the Urban Institute has selected Rhode Island to be a pioneer in the delivery of social services," Governor Chafee said. "This award is the result of excellent collaboration among state departments and human service agencies, and I am happy to see their hard work bear fruit."
"We commend the Ford Foundation for their commitment to improving the lives of working families through improved delivery of social services," EOHHS Secretary Steven Costantino said. "Their goals align with our desire to continue refining how the agencies of the Secretariat administer our programs more smoothly and effectively. We are grateful to Elizabeth Burke Bryant of RI Kids Count and Linda Katz of the Poverty Institute who partnered with us in this grant application and to all the community agencies who have been working with us in this effort."
Working with the Urban Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Ford Foundation began its Work Support Strategies: Streamlining Access, Strengthening Families project with three goals in mind:
· improve the health and well-being of low-income families, stabilize their family and work lives, and enable them to progress in the labor force by increasing the share of eligible families receiving work supports;
· deliver benefits more effectively and efficiently, reducing state administrative burdens and the burden on clients; and
· glean lessons to inform broader state and federal policies
Twenty-seven states competed for this grant. Their applications were reviewed by an advisory committee of experts in policy and state operations, including participants from the National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Academy for State Health Policy, and other organizations. After this review, project teams conducted intensive site visits to highly rated states.
"The award of this grant is testimony to the strong working relationships our department has with community partners and our commitment to make our programs and services as accessible and effective as possible," Sandra M. Powell, Acting Director of DHS, said. "We look forward to working with the Urban Institute, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Ford Foundation, and the other participating partners and states to reinforce our supports for working families.