“Administrative burden” sure does sound like a boring term. To be fair, much of the modern economics lingo is a little dry to the average person. However, this refers to something with huge impacts on millions of Americans.

What is administrative burden? This is a catch-all term for all of the little roadblocks between a person and enrolling or staying in a public benefit. It’s the time spent waiting in person in an office or sitting on hold on the phone. It’s the effort it takes to track down documents or fill out tons of forms. It’s also the money spent traveling to appointments or paying for help with applications. As roadblocks are added, the likelihood that someone who qualifies for a public benefit – like payouts on unemployment insurance or the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – gets to the end of the process successfully decreases.

We’ll be taking a look at the impact of administrative burden in the US and some of the difficulties people and families face. We’ll also be donating to the National WIC Association, an organization working to educate, advocate, and innovate to support the the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.

Difficulties Enrolling

The first part of the administrative burden is simply enrolling in a public program. There’s a constant push and pull between data privacy, accessibility and accuracy. While we do give plenty of information to the federal, state and sometimes local governments about who we are, what we make and what our family looks like, that data has many rules around how it can be used and by whom.

This often necessitates filling out forms and pulling your own tax or pay records. Someone with an unstable living situation may not have easy access to their paystub from last month. They may not have filed taxes for a while due to a long span of unemployment.

On top of that, there are simple errors that can happen in processing information that can have huge effects. Just a rural address not getting recognized can mean major delays.

Difficulties Staying Enrolled

Once someone is successfully enrolled into a public program, they often need to stay aggressively up-to-date on the requirements. It’s not unheard of for children to be removed from the Medicaid program after new requirements to maintain enrollment are introduced without the parents’ knowledge. For certain benefits, regularly visiting an in-person office is required to reload a card or reapply.

How to Help

Navigating public programs can be tricky, and many people find it difficult to enroll in or maintain benefits that they qualify for. Education can play a key role in helping families navigate these waters with a little help. Organizations like the National WIC Association are focused on the education of families to get them and their children the help they need.