The state Legislature is being asked to reduce the amount of paperwork that Missourians must fill out to enroll or renew in federal safety net programs. Representative Mary Elizabeth Coleman, a Republican from the St. Louis suburb of Arnold, has filed a bipartisan bill in response to challenging herself to see what it was like to fill out the application.
“I gave up. It was repetitive. It was frustrating,” she says. “There was a lot of legalese. I decided that if as a lawyer and as a state Representative I had a hard time navigating to receive these benefits, then how much more would a family who’s facing a crisis and is really needing to be a recipient of these services, how would they be able to navigate them.”
Depending on which program you’re trying to sign up for, including food stamps, WIC, Medicaid or temporary assistance, the state’s current application is as long as 63 pages. She doesn’t have a magic number of pages she thinks the application should be. Her goal is ultimately to be more user friendly.
“All of those applications should be concise and non-duplicative and all of the legalese should be put onto a separate piece of paper so that’s it’s just really easy to navigate and found online,” says Coleman. “So the idea is that, you know, it’s just a good government kind of clean up thing. It’s not changing who is eligible. It’s not changing should we have these programs. But we do have them and so we need to make it accessible to people.”
Coleman says the paperwork is not as cohesive as it could be. Every time there’s a new federal regulation, the paperwork gets longer.
“The questions aren’t even really complicated,” says Coleman. “It’s just that the directions can be complicated. And so it can be stated more simply. I mean this is one of those things that it’s easier for everybody if we do it this way. It’s going to make it easier for state employees to get the necessary information.”
The Missouri House General Laws Committee voted unanimously in favor of her bipartisan. The legislation, House Bill 1960, is awaiting consideration by the House Rules Committee.
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