House Democrats bring back customer experience bill targeting student loan, passport updates

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) reintroduced legislation Tuesday designed to modernize and improve certain government services.

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) reintroduced legislation Tuesday designed to modernize and improve certain government services. Apu Gomes / Getty Images

A bill reintroduced Tuesday aims to codify parts of the White House’s 2021 executive order on making government services more user-friendly.

Reps. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) reintroduced a bill Tuesday that would codify parts of a 2021 executive order that called for agencies to make discrete improvements to government services. 

Dubbed the Trust in Government Act, Porter first introduced the bill in fall 2022, but while it was referred to committee, it never made it to the House floor for a vote.

The reforms the bill aims to codify include directions for the Education Department to create a centralized loan repayment portal for student loan borrowers no matter their loan servicer; for the Social Security Administration make an online process for people applying for services capable of uploading forms or documentation; and for the State Department to set up online passport renewal processes, something the department released on a limited basis last year.

The bills’ cosponsors — which include  eight other House Democrats in addition to Porter, Connolly and Mfume — said that its intent is to improve the quality of government services.

“It is beyond imperative that the public interacts with a modern, accessible and customer-focused government,” Connolly said in a statement. 

The bill also includes reporting requirements for agencies, as well as requirements for the Office of Management and Budget to establish a team that would support agencies’ work on improving customer experience.

Stakeholders told FCW previously that the White House 2021 executive order the proposal draws from has helped increase awareness of and attention to how front-end users experience government services. Still, others have wondered how to make that policy momentum last and, in particular, what role Congress has to play.

The Biden-Harris administration asked for over $500 million related to customer experience in its budget request for 2024.

Long-term, others like the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service have suggested that the White House will need to work with Congress to reshape the statutory and regulatory environment in terms of agency data-sharing or customer experience feedback. This is alongside calls for potential changes to the requirements Congress baked into government programs, such as specifics around enrollment processes for government benefits.

For now, the bill’s sponsors say that the proposal – and another reintroduced bill that would push the IRS to scan paper returns and convert them to electronic formats –  could help. 

“The bills we introduced today will encourage federal agencies to improve the services they provide to everyday American citizens,” said Mfume in a statement. 

“Filing taxes and getting returns should be easy and efficient,” said Porter. “Modernizing the technology we use to process tax returns will ease the burden of paperwork and get Americans their money back sooner.”