US Congressmen lodge bill to abolish paperless policies

By David Ward, San Diego, Thursday 07 March 2013

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Two US Congressmen this week introduced a bipartisan resolution that seeks to reverse a recent federal push toward going paperless for a variety of information and services, ranging from income tax forms to Social Security checks.

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Runyan: It's time for Congress to protect equal information access for all Americans

The resolution, by Republican Sean Duffy of Wisconsin and Democrat Mike Michaud of Maine, seeks to bring these federal agency decisions to go paperless under Congressional review, while directing the federal government to ensure that Americans receive paper information and services, unless they specifically choose electronic-only.

It follows an extensive education campaign by both advocacy groups and individual consumer printing companies.

In an interview with PrintWeek, John Runyan, executive director of advocacy group Consumers for Paper Options, said: "We've been making a lot of visits on Capital Hill and this is a sign of progress. This is not mandating any sort of statutory change, but it starts the dialogue and will pave the way for future efforts."

Consumers for Paper Options has been educating Congressman on the fact that more than 30m US households lack Internet access both at home and work, making the government push toward making citizens e-file tax forms, manage their finances online and purchase savings bonds electronically a lot more challenging.

"The biggest thing we've been trying to do is getting Washington's attention and now Congress is starting to pay attention," Runyan said. "The cost factor is one of the things that drive a federal agency to look at going paperless, but what that ignores is that there are certain things that need to remain in paper form for the government to do its job. When you make a move that denies people access to important information, we think that's wrong."

Runyan noted that support for keeping paper checks and income tax forms seems to one of those issues that generates consensus even in these hyper-partisan times in Washington. "It's an issue that all should care about and the government should keep in mind this is a bi-partisan effort."

Martin Eustace, director of UK-headquartered lobby group Two Sides, added: "Consumers for Paper Options has done a great job in the US to highlight the growing tendency of government departments and large organisations to drive unwilling consumers down a digital path.

"We also know that many consumers print out their bills for security so the term ‘going paperless’ is totally misleading. There is clearly a need to present the facts to large UK organisations, including government, and discussions are continuing about launching a similar UK initiative in the very near future."


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