Mobilizing for Mission-Critical Payment Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 30, 2020 Jason Boswell

The disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States can’t be overstated – in the past two months, nearly every aspect of daily life has been turned upside down. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the negative effects of this economic downturn will land harder on the vulnerable and disadvantaged.

In dozens of states, we’ve been working with health and human services agencies for decades to serve vulnerable individuals and families who rely on public assistance programs, child support, Medicaid, and more. We disbursed more than $42 billion in benefits and payments in 2019 alone. As our client agencies ramp up their efforts to help households at risk, we’re doing everything we can to minimize disruption to existing operations and quickly implement expanded services when our clients reach out for additional support.

In the government payments area, the ripple impacts of the pandemic are already deep and broad. Some areas where Conduent has supported clients so far include:

  • Feeding hungry kids with Pandemic EBT programs. Michigan and Rhode Island were the first two states to receive waivers to provide Pandemic EBT; Conduent plays a role in delivering these benefits in both states. A new program authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), Pandemic EBT provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals dealing with school closures. Keeping kids fed when schools are closed is one of the government’s highest priorities in these challenging times and Conduent is proud to help address this urgent need.
  • Making it possible for SNAP recipients to grocery-shop from home with online purchasing programs. While EBT transactions for programs like SNAP, TANF and WIC have historically required the presence of a physical card, a number of states are moving quickly to offer online grocery purchases, following the latest guidance from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services (FNS). Since its inception, Conduent has been supporting the SNAP online purchasing program in New York State, which was the first of its kind when it went live in April 2019. State interest in SNAP online purchasing has obviously grown dramatically in urgency since the pandemic began, and Conduent is working to support program expansion in a number of states on this newly accelerated schedule. The current list of states approved by FNS to implement SNAP use online is available here.
  • Keeping child support payments flowing with electronic remittance and disbursement. Working closely with our state child support clients, we are looking at ways to increase usage of fully electronic child support payment options like ExpertPay, which allows employers, payroll providers and individuals to pay child support in all 50 states via a single online portal located at ExpertPay.com. Because child support has a one-to-one payment relationship – if non-custodial parents don’t submit a payment, custodial parents don’t receive one, which can have disastrous effects in low-income households – removing any obstacles to remittance is an incredibly important mission at this time.

Of course none of these efforts takes place in a vacuum. Throughout the health and human services ecosystem – because so many families participate in more than one program – Conduent is helping clients deal with these unique and constantly evolving challenges. Self-service program eligibility portals, child support and ramping up other health and human services programs each play a role in this interconnected system. In addition, we’re working to help current and prospective client agencies address the surge in applications for unemployment benefits, an area where we disburse millions of dollars each year on payment cards and support these programs with comprehensive customer service functionality.

No one knows what the next few months will bring. But our commitment to working in partnership with agencies throughout the United States to serve their most vulnerable populations has not changed. We specialize in mission-critical services, and the mission of our client agencies remains the same: to deliver the right services at the right time in the right ways to help those in need.

 

About the Author

VP of Program Management, Conduent Payment Services

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