The Portage Township trustee's office is reportedly the first township in Indiana to go to a paperless assistance program. This is long overdue step.
Skipping the paper forms is not only environmentally responsible -- fewer trees are killed -- but also a boost to efficiency. Workers will be able to quickly find what used to be called paperwork filled out by applicants.
The paperless assistance program also offers opportunity for partnerships with other entities in the same line of work.
Indiana should not force aid applicants to have to answer the same questions at each government office they visit. There should be a single intake process -- using the human touch, not automated and faceless -- to screen applicants for a variety of welfare programs, both short-term and long-term.
The Kernan-Shepard report, which set the agenda for local government reform in Indiana, dealt with this issue as it proposed the elimination of township government.
"For poor relief services, it is important to maintain the personalized service, use of various forms of relief, and offices appropriately (dispersed)," the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform report said.
Regardless of who provides the service, the face-to-face intake process is important -- but it need not be repeated at each agency.
Portage Township Trustee Brendan Clancy, honored by the Indiana Townships Association as the 2012 trustee of the year, should direct the township attorney to see with whom the township could share this intake information, and seek to change state law where necessary to make it possible to share this information -- with the client's permission, of course.
Ideally, this would become a one-step process for applying for emergency aid. The township should be able to work with nonprofits that also provide emergency financial aid, food, shelter and clothing to make sure the process of applying for aid preserves the client's dignity and cracks down on trying to game the system. This model should then inspire similar reforms statewide.
That's the kind of efficiency townships should demonstrate.