Session: Improving Policy Implementation and Program Access: Lessens from the COVID-19 Pandemic (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

198 Improving Policy Implementation and Program Access: Lessens from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Saturday, January 14, 2023: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
South Mountain, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
Cluster: Inequality, Poverty, and Social Welfare Policy
Symposium Organizer:
Julia Henly, PhD, University of Chicago
Sara Goodkind, PhD, University of Pittsburgh
At the intersection of policy design, implementation, and access sits a set of critical questions of relevance for social workers and social work researchers: How can we design and administer public programs in ways that recognize the historical and contemporary factors that influence participant views of government intervention and their experiences with services? How do we disrupt bureaucratic practices that have historically operated to stigmatize, marginalize, and discourage participation? What would it take for government initiatives to instead represent welcome supports to the organizations and residents for whom they are intended to serve? The COVID-19 pandemic and consequent economic hardship on families, organizations, and communities has only increased the saliency and urgency of these questions. With infusions of new public spending during a time of crisis, it has been critical for government agencies to modify service technologies and get relief to families, small businesses, social services, and schools with speed and efficiency. This has resulted in new efforts to simplify eligibility criteria, widely disseminate information about new supports, and deliver services in innovative ways. The four papers in this symposium and the expertise of the discussant speak to the underlying challenges and opportunities presented by several COVID-19 emergency initiatives to improve service delivery and support organizations and families through the pandemic's first year. The papers contribute to a robust literature on policy implementation, bureaucratic encounters, and public engagement with social programs (e.g., Lipsky, 1980; Hasenfeld, 1985; 1999; Brodkin, 2000; Houston & Harding, 2014).

The four qualitative papers draw from interviews with distinct actors: street-level bureaucrats administering public benefits (paper 1), childcare program directors delivering caregiving services (paper 2), immigrant and non-immigrant urban mothers (paper 3), and families and teachers (paper 4). The first paper investigates the ways that SNAP and Medicaid workers in North Carolina adapted to pandemic-related policy reforms. The study finds that although reforms reduced administrative burden on applicants, they created psychological costs for caseworkers. The second paper considers how providers in Illinois experienced relief programs targeted to the childcare industry. It finds that simplified application procedures and broad messaging improved benefit access, but was insufficient to eradicate provider concerns about fairness, trust, and burden. The third paper considers how a context of disenfranchisement from public institutions shapes pandemic-related experiences of immigrant and racialized mothers in Chicago, including their acceptance of public health messaging and resource-seeking strategies. The fourth paper broadens the focus outside of the US context and considers how access to remote learning technologies in rural China required significant technical guidance, parent participation, and teacher engagement to be successful, demonstrating that program "access" includes a complex mix of buy-in, trust, and resources.

While each of the four papers represents a unique contribution, together they offer suggestions for improving policy design, implementation, and access. In different ways, each paper speaks to the question of whether and how policies can more effectively increase trust in government programs, improve buy-in and program take up, and more effectively meet the needs of organizations and residents. on 4-18-2022-->

* noted as presenting author
Provider Responses to Government Stabilization of the Child Care Industry
Julia Henly, PhD, University of Chicago; Karlyn Gehring, MA, University of Chicago; Jacqueline Lewittes, BA, University of Chicago
No Calm before the Storm: Immigrant and Racialized Low-Income Mothers before and after COVID-19
Marci Ybarra, PhD, University of Chicago; Frania Mendoza Lua, MSW, University of Chicago
Bridging the Urban-Rural Gap: A Qualitative Examination of Perceived Access, Barriers, Risks, and Opportunities of Children's Digital Learning in China during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Linyun Fu, MSW, University of Chicago; Yingying Zeng, Ph.D Candidate; MSW; MSP;, Washington University in St. Louis; Xixi Kang, MSW; MSP, Renmin University of China
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