Easy as 1-2-3, GovBenefits.gov goes live

D. Cameron Findlay, deputy secretary of the Labor Department, at the launch of GovBenefits, which brings together information from many agencies about federal benefits programs.

The Labor Department launched GovBenefits.gov in late April, the first new federal e-gov site to come out of the Office of Management and Budget's e-gov initiative. The site brings together information from many agencies about federal benefits programs.

GovBenefits, developed in three months by 10 agencies and Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va., is designed to eliminate the burden of navigating 31 million federal Web pages with information about benefits programs.

Borrowing the "three clicks to service" approach used by FirstGov.gov, GovBenefits takes each user through a three-step screening process and then presents a list of benefits the user may qualify for.

GovBenefits is organized the way citizens see the world and is accessed by simple yes-or-no questions, said D. Cameron Findlay, deputy secretary of the Department of Labor.

The first release of GovBenefits includes 55 programs administered by 10 federal agencies, representing $1 trillion in spending. Within the next two to three years, the site will include all federal, state and local benefits programs ? about 300, Findlay said.

Planned additions to GovBenefits include a call center for people without Web access and the ability to apply for benefits online through a streamlined process.

More than 80 million people receive benefits through federal, state and local assistance programs. GovBenefits is one of 24 e-government initiatives announced by OMB in October 2001. Some of the projects are new; others are existing federal initiatives that are being expanded or revamped. GovBenefits is the first new
e-gov initiative to be launched.

GovBenefits has laid an e-government benchmark that other programs will follow, said Mark Forman, associate director for information technology and e-government in OMB.

The Labor Department is the managing partner of the initiative. Other participating agencies are the departments of Agriculture, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, State, Veterans Affairs, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Social Security Administration.

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