Mass Benefits Enrollment Campaign Now

Movements Poverty

            Pearl River      While posting a blog to Facebook on what we have called “maximum eligible participation” in a riff on the old War on Poverty line about “maximum feasible participation” of the poor, I found myself calling for a “mass enrollment campaign.”  I of course in my excitement mistyped that exhortation as “pass enrollment campaign” and didn’t notice it until it was long gone on the interweb.  But, seriously, why wouldn’t this be possible?  Yeah, it would take some money and some tech work, but mainly it would require collaboration and huge numbers, we’re talking thousands and thousands, to hit the doors and be ready to open their doors in a concerted effort to do mass enrollment.

On the tech side, we learned more than 15 years ago how many programs could be accessed on-line with simple programs that could be loaded on tablets or even internet enabled phones to facilitate applications right on the doors.  All of that has just gotten easier now.  What was an innovation has now been streamlined.  We’d have to work it out, but the tech is available and people know how to do it.

As we used to sing, “I’m a door knocking fool,” so I love the idea of ten thousand people hitting the doors in lower income neighborhoods around the country on the same days to spread the word and enable applications.  It would be great to make that happen.  It would take a lot of coordination to pull the coalition together and spread the word not just with social media, but also with millions of posters and flyers, public service announcements, and more.  Besides saying that we’re coming, so open the door and be ready, there could also be notices that folks could go to community centers, churches, and union halls to sign up for benefit programs where trained volunteers could be sitting on computers pressing send time and again.  We were part of this routine as navigators for the Affordable Care signups.  Putting together such an event nationally with wide publicity and that kind of community outreach would be a “happening” and would have spillover effects in increased applications afterward as well.  We could move the needle.  This is a rights-based campaign to breakthrough barriers and opposition.

Maybe a bigger problem is whether a big enough coalition of the willing could be built?  Could all the organizations that still have field canvass programs be mobilized?  Could national unions, churches, senior groups, and even political parties in some places be brought together in a massive effort.  Yeah, this could be hard and would take some work, but I have to believe it’s possible.  If you’re old enough, maybe you remember Hands Across America?  No? How about the great demonstrations on climate, peace, women’s rights, and more? This time we all come together to make sure there’s mass eligible participation?  Think about the great effort the postal workers union makes for their one day of food pickups.  Maybe they could come on board for this in a combo?  How about mass voter registration campaigns for 2024?  Could this become part of the push?

It would take some money.  Millions in fact.  There must be donors and foundations that would understand the value of investments that would leverage the estimated $30 billion in benefits for low-income families that are now being left on the table.  If it worked, maybe it comes to be sustainable and repeated, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Once upon a time, ACORN could lead this.  Maybe not now, but we can certainly make the call, say it loud and often, until we’re not only heard, but part of the army that could bring money and benefits to millions who desperately need the support.