Utah Cares: The First Fruits of eREP

Governor Walker launched the Utah Cares portal today. Utah Cares is the first fruits of a multi-agency cooperative effort to rebuild Utah's twenty year old eligibility system. This multi-million dollar IT effort goes by the name eREP. Utah administers about a billion dollars of Federal welfare benefits each year. Part of that process is the determination of recipient eligibility. Over the next few months, successive launches of eREP components will make it easier for State benefits administrators to make better, more consistent eligibility determinations.

eREP is a great example of how IT is changing the rules of the game and requiring better cooperation from the business side of the house. The system is essentially a CRM system with lots of specialized rules to determine eligibility and calculate specific benefits.  Since every federal welfare program is funded separately, in the past Utah would have built 6 or 7 separate eligibility systems.  Instead, Utah is building, through the cooperation of three large State agencies, a core CRM system and rules engine that will serve them all. Individual modules will be built on top of that system for the individual programs.  To satisfy the Feds, Utah has to be able to track and correctly allocate the costs and get some relief on ADP, but its workable.  For a system that will ultimately cost $50 million or so, its worth it---doing them separately would have cost much more and delivered less service.

This is also a great example of the next level of eGovernment. Beyond one-off applications for registering a car or buying a fishing license is a whole host of eGovernment applications that will not just make the current services more convenient, but create brand new services that couldn't be done any other way. This next level of eGovernment requires tying together existing applications and data across agency boundaries and funding streams. That last one is tough. Legislatures are jealous of their funding authority, as they ought to be. Even so, I think finding ways to fund and support cooperative efforts like eREP will be one of the greatest challenges to the progress of eGovernment in the next decade and lead to significant changes in how legislatures do their bookkeeping.