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Service Oriented Architecture Solution Helps State Quickly Expand Food Stamp Program

Abstract

Inflation, increasing unemployment rates, and the “worst financial crisis since the Great Depression” mean some citizens now more than ever are in need of public assistance. Without the safety net of Food Stamps, some citizens could face serious malnutrition. Due to several barriers, however, many citizens do not take advantage of the Food Stamp Program. The United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service recently estimated that only about two-thirds of eligible citizens in the nation participate in Food Stamps.

One of the barriers is a lack of eligibility knowledge. Another is a lack of access.

As part of his economic security agenda, the governor of a large northeastern state initiated efforts to expand the Food Stamp Program for low-income working families. The objective of the effort was to “remove barriers that make it difficult for [the state’s citizens] to access help.” The goal was to extend food stamp benefits to as many as 100,000 additional households within the state.

The Challenge

In response to the governor’s call for improvements, the state’s human services agency solicited the vendor community to help them quickly implement a browser-based channel for food stamps self-screening and electronic application. After evaluating several solutions and working with the state CIO, the agency selected Deloitte Consulting LLP to help them build and implement a new system.

How We Helped

The state’s objective for the project was to implement an application that allowed the citizens of the state to prescreen themselves for social services and electronically apply for Food Stamps. This application would provide additional opportunity for applications, which may translate to additional households receiving Food Stamps benefits. Prior to the new system, citizens would mainly go to social services offices to apply for Food Stamps. However, that meant the citizen was constrained by the social service offices' hours of operation. If the citizen was working full-time, he/she may not have been able to make it into the office. The new system would provide citizens the opportunity to apply for Food Stamps at a community-based organization (which may be open after hours or on weekends).

The first phase of the project was successfully launched in a record time of four months, allowing constituents to pre-screen for Food Stamps, Tax Credits and School and Summer Meals.

The second phase included new features and additional integration with the legacy system and client Internet access to get application status. The system is believed to be one of the fastest implementations of a system within the state.

The solution, which includes the transfer of an application used successfully in another state, also re-uses the integration hub (developed by Deloitte Consulting on a previous engagement) to integrate to the legacy welfare management system based on a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).

Solution

The following helped make the project a success:

  • Visible and vocal executive sponsorship. The agency’s Commissioner, Deputy Commissioners, CIO and Directors were vocal supports of the project and worked to remove obstacles and generate excitement.
  • Incrementally developing and deploying functionality increases speed to market. The project quickly deployed an application into production, which provided functionality to citizens four months after project start.
  • Involvement of key stakeholders from requirements gathering through deployment mitigates quality and schedule risks. The project involved subject matter specialists, testers, trainers, executives, county agencies and agency partners throughout the process. This allowed the project to obtain multiple perspectives as well as level-set with all involved. 

 

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