Now is the time for a Client Bill of Rights!

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How we got here

Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and our Client Advisory Board, comprised of community leaders who have lived experience of hunger and poverty, are hoping to create legislation to create a set of expectations for how ODHS employees interact with clients, based on the actual experiences and needs of those receiving services.

Client Advisory Board members have universally experienced barriers and poor treatment when seeking services with Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), many because of their race, ethnicity, gender, and disability. Board members are deeply connected to their community and witness many who need critical resources encountering trauma and barriers that prevent them from easily accessing supports they need. These experiences have only been made worse during the pandemic as limited in-person access to critical services and changes to ODHS systems, including a new online portal and call center, have starkly limited access.

The Client Advisory Board surveyed SNAP participants during Summer 2021 to document their experiences with accessing services at ODHS as well as hear their feedback on the bill of rights. Survey results confirmed a need to address customer service and inequitable access through a client bill of rights.

At Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, we have also long documented disparate access to ODHS services based on race, ethnicity and language. From the early 2000s through 2019, we ran annual “secret shopper” reports of customer service experiences at ODHS. We partnered closely with ODHS on this work, highlighting findings and recommendations to address barriers. We stopped this work because for multiple years, we consistently found the same barriers that disproportionately affected communities of color and non-English speakers and ODHS did not take action to actively address and change the outcomes. We shifted our staff time and effort to building power with SNAP recipients and those potentially eligible to hold ODHS accountable to making needed changes to ensure equitable client experiences, access, and outcomes. The Client Bill of Rights is an outcome of this intentional effort.

The campaign envisions all Oregonians seeking food benefits are welcomed, supported, and provided with transparency while seeking assistance from Oregon Department of Human Services. Oregon Department of Human Services centers clients’ rights by being trauma-informed, creating a supportive and welcoming environment, providing clear information (in requested languages) and transparency on benefit decisions. 

The campaign’s goal is to pass legislation that enforces a SNAP Client Bill of Rights ensuring Oregon Department of Human Services staff, administration, and processes are client centered, client needs are prioritized and rights are maintained when seeking resources and support from ODHS.

We see the far reaching outcomes of a policy like this in place at ODHS that will establish metrics for good customer service and client access leading to increased uptake of programs, lower trauma during the application process, and equitable experiences for people of color, gender non-confirming, and those with disabilities seeking ODHS services.

Read the Client Bill of Rights

What we aim to accomplish

Our goal is to introduce this legislation during the 2023 Oregon legislative session. We will be speaking with Members about the importance of creating a Client Bill of Rights and will seek out sponsors. We will continue to work with community and people that have lived expertise in hunger and poverty to ensure that those who would be most impacted by this legislation are leading the way.

About the SNAP CAB

The SNAP Client Advisory Board provides a brave space for past, present, and future SNAP participants to improve the program for SNAP recipients. The board exists to make changes, hold decision-makers accountable, and ensure there is equitable access to SNAP for all. They do this by working together with advocates, community organizations, and lawmakers.

This board is comprised of community leaders who have lived experience of hunger and poverty. These leaders have been on SNAP in the past or present.  Currently, all board members identify as female; 70% identify as BIPOC; 60% are single parents; and 30% are in college. Board members are compensated through $15/hour stipends for time spent at meetings, trainings, and conducting work related to the board. Transportation assistance, childcare, and food are provided at all meetings. Since the start of this crisis, Hunger-Free Oregon also provided emergency support for rent, food, and technology needs to support our members, just as we have to our staff.

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