A pair of House lawmakers wants agencies to allow Americans to spend less time on the phone and filling out paperwork when dealing with government.
A slew of agencies would receive new directives to make their services more accessible to Americans under a bill from a pair of House Democrats, who said the government is wasting taxpayers’ money and time.
The Trust in Government Act (H.R. 9233) would provide specific instructions to more than a half dozen agencies to operate more efficiently or reduce hurdles for their constituents. The bill was put forward by Reps. Katie Porter, D-Calif., and Gerry Connolly, D-Va., signaling the priorities for the potential new Democratic leaders of the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the next Congress.
The bill would create some specific tasks—such as calling on the Education Department to create a centralized loan repayment portal—and some broad ones—like a requirement for the Transportation Security Administration to adopt innovative solutions to reduce passenger wait times at airports. The directives also aim to create better communications between agencies and the public, such as by calling on the Internal Revenue Service to provide customer support through email and with callback options and for TSA to develop an online chat function.
The Labor Department would have to write new rules allowing federal employees collecting workers compensation to participate in telehealth appointments, while several agencies would work together in creating easier access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Agencies like the departments of Interior, Agriculture and State would have to allow individuals to apply for permits, loans and passports digitally.
“The American people deserve nothing less than top-notch service from their federal agencies,” Porter said. “A lack of accessibility and efficiency not only wastes taxpayer dollars and Americans’ time, it also erodes the people’s trust in our government. I’m proud to work on legislation that will hold government accountable to deliver high-quality service and support.”
Agencies would have six months to get their changes up and running and demonstrate to the Office of Management and Budget that they were complying with their new requirements. OMB would create its own team to monitor progress on the measure and assist agencies in fulfilling their duties.
“The federal government is only as good as the quality of services it provides to the American people,” Connolly said. “That’s why it’s absolutely imperative that the public interacts with a modern, accessible, and customer-focused government.”
Last year, President Biden issued an executive order calling on agencies to improve customer service. The president similarly directed agencies to create more online tools for individuals to access their services, such as passport renewal and tax filing. The order made 36 customer experience commitments across 17 federal agencies.