This post from Larry Bafundo at the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance (“UI”) Modernization office is an incredibly insightful tour of how states can and should work differently on their customer-facing IT systems. Importantly it’s also a model document for how federal departments can and should help states spend the billions of dollars that the federal government sends to the states for those systems.

Too often federal departments responsible for state-administered programs send money and rules, and not much else. Larry is demonstrating how much more is possible for very little additional investment. That small investment is nearly guaranteed to substantially increase the rate of success of those programs, and likely at lower cost.

The missing pieces for this play are often (1) Congressional authorization to provide such help, and (2) available in-house people with the expertise, bandwidth, and authorities to lead it. The UI legislation made this possible, and people like Larry are making it happen. They need help — a lot of help, from the nonprofit and private sectors — but this is a great step in the right direction.