Connecting constituents who are eligible for public assistance like Medicaid, food stamps and child care is a task the state of Utah has made completely electronic.

In November 2010, the state deployed Utah myCase, a self-service account management system that allows eligible recipients of public assistance to access their benefits information online. Since the original deployment, nearly 90 percent of all eligible Utah citizens have created accounts, according to state officials.

After initially submitting an application for public benefits, users may use myCase to view information like electronic notices, personal case information, and other benefits updates, said Matthew Larson, assistant director of the Eligibility Services Division for the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

MyCase, developed in-house by the state Department of Technology Services, allows access to the account holder’s current financial aid balance. Accessing those funds can be done with a JPMorgan Chase electronic card, although the myCase portal itself does not serve as a bank account for accessing that aid, said Tricia Cox, IT manager for Utah’s Department of Technology Services.

When users apply for assistance, the portal taps directly into the state’s eligibility system to do an initial determination of eligibility. Larson said once the initial application for benefits is submitted, the myCase system walks the user through a series of questions step by step – similar to the tax filing software Turbotax – in order to create an account.

“Once people are eligible for assistance, they can start seeing things in the myCase portal, like their basic information of which programs they are eligible for,” Cox said.

And so far, the portal has proven successful. Larson said in its first month of deployment, nearly 128,000 users set up accounts and the state currently has 281,000 active myCase accounts. Cox said this represents a big leap in online connectivity to public benefits information with myCase --  Utah’s old online system only garnered about 30,000 users.

Closing the Digital Divide with Third-Party Integration

Like other state-provided tools that require Internet connectivity, Utah does face some challenges connecting eligible constituents who may have difficulty obtaining Internet access. While the digital divide remains in many areas across the U.S., the myCase portal addresses the issue by allowing assistance recipients to designate someone else to access benefits information on their behalf.

With myCase’s third-party integration, eligible individuals can grant access to relatives, a medical provider or an advocate group to manage their cases on the myCase portal. Larson reported that 5,000 third parties are currently linked to 15,000 cases across the state.

“I, as a homeless advocate, can go in and assist a hundred different people through myCase if those customers have given me rights and access to do so,” Larson said.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.