President Biden signed an executive order that directs federal agencies to streamline routine government services like renewing a passport or applying for college loans so they are simple tasks instead of time-consuming nightmares.
The order includes a checklist of 36 ways to improve “customer experience” when Americans try to claim benefits, save on prescription drugs or file their taxes.
Mr. Biden said the bureaucracy is too complicated for Americans who are entitled to federal services and paid for them with their tax dollars.
“It’s really a very complicated web for the vast majority of people, whether they have PhDs or high school education,” Mr. Biden said at the signing in the Oval Office. “So today, I’m signing an executive order to ensure — to ensure — that the federal government puts you, the American people, at the front of the line.”
The plan updates Social Security for the digital age, making it easier for 54 million older adults to claim Social Security benefits without heading into a local office. It also will personalize Medicare tools so enrollees can tailor benefits to their needs and local pharmacies.
The IRS will be directed to let customers schedule callbacks when they seek help during the filing season, and disaster survivors will be able to document damage virtually from their mobile phones. The plan will also make it easier to renew a passport online without having to go to the post office, according to the White House.
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The White House said people will be able to manage their college loans on a single website, veterans will be able to track benefits with one login password and farmers seeking loans will see less paperwork, among other actions.
“You’ll see better technology to speed the security lines and wait times at our national airports,” Mr. Biden said, adding it will be easier to request aid after disasters like the tornadoes that ravaged Kentucky over the weekend.
One GOP strategist said the move seemed desperate.
“Today’s EO feels more like window dressing and a messaging tool designed to give [Mr. Biden’s] vulnerable congressional allies political cover as they face down a brutal and punishing midterm landscape,” said Colin Reed, a founding partner at South & Hill Strategies and who once served as a spokesman for former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“Usually executive orders become the modus operandi of a lame-duck president after he loses control of Congress, not before, but since Biden can’t even get his agenda passed now, this is what he’s left with,” Mr. Reed said.
Mr. Biden insisted the executive order was no small thing as he gathered leaders of the departments of Education and Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency, Small Business Administration and Transportation Security Administration around his desk.
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“The bottom line is we’re going to make government work more effectively for the American citizens so it’s not as confusing and it’s straightforward,” he said. “I know it sounds like a simple thing. I think it’s pretty consequential.”
Sean Moulton, a spokesman at the Project On Government Oversight — a nonprofit that exposes government waste and abuse — said Mr. Biden’s order is “a welcome effort.”
“Tens of millions interact with these agencies every year and improving those interactions can, not only make people’s lives a little easier, but could also result in better performance by the agencies,” he said. “Modernization of government services has been long overdue. POGO is encouraged by the lengthy list of specific improvements the White House is requiring from each agency.”