Social Policy & Programs Consulting
Training and Services for agencies working toward social and economic justice
It’s Easy to Find Government Information
All Public Info is Available Online
June 27, 2017
Like it or not, government is a big presence in the United States. The large number of bureaus, departments, and offices has always made it difficult for citizens to find their way around. And then the Internet arrived.
In June 2000, President Bill Clinton instructed every Executive Branch government office to develop a website for public use. Can you imagine how many sites that would be? People had no idea how or where to look for the information they needed. Eric Brewer, one of the founders of the Internet, donated a massive search engine to the United States through his nonprofit Federal Search Foundation. Firstgov.gov opened for business on September 22, 2000. The name was changed to usa.gov in January 2007. Since then, the site has earned more than 200 awards from dozens of organizations, publications, and other websites. Today, the United States government has just about the largest internet presence on earth. And it’s all at your fingertips.
USA.gov is your access to a mind-boggling supply of information. It links all of the individual government sites into a single place. It can connect you with every bit of public information in every government office and agency at every level – federal, state, local, and even American Indian tribal governments. That’s right. All of it. Of course, no one wants all of that information, but every piece is important to someone. Now there’s a way to find it.
Since the site is so massive, it includes a search function, a Help page, a Frequently Asked Questions page, a site index, and online tutorials. You can even email questions to the managers. However, I’ve found that the best way to use it is to spend just a few minutes poking around and getting used to it.
You can easily reach the White House, cabinet department, Congress, IRS, and government public assistance sites. There are pages with consumer information on managing money, finding college loans, grants to nonprofit organizations, and starting a business. You can read the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and other government documents. You can file a HIPAA complaint or a Freedom of Information Act request.
There are sections for individuals, businesses, government employees, and visitors to the US. In only seconds, you can contact elected officials, read the text of legislation pending before Congress, register to vote, read the nutritional requirements of the National School Lunch Program, and apply for public assistance programs. You can visit every US embassy in the world, and the embassies of foreign governments in the US.
Beyond the Federal
But it’s not just for the federal government. You can email the governor, find hotels in every city, find your state legislator, and renew your driver’s license. There are maps of local parks and a links to your local city council members and local court offices.
Usa.gov is a vital tool for everyone. I found the US Constitution in four clicks,
President Trump’s Executive Orders in five clicks, and my local borough council
meeting minutes in six clicks. I found my home county poverty statistics in seven clicks.
I reached the government’s site for military families in two clicks and my state
budget in three. You can reach the White House, Congress, the governor, and
your own mayor.
It’s great for students, too. I found the official sites of the Navaho Nation in Arizona, the Smithsonian Institution, and the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center. Essentially, if the government has it, you can find it.
You can get all of the same information over the telephone or through the mail, but it will take longer. That contact information is listed below. The site is published in English and Spanish. General information is available in 89 other languages, too.
When you need information, or help on anything related to government, start with usa.gov.
For more information:
Office of Citizen Services and Communications
U.S. General Services Administration
1800 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20405
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Patricia A. O'Malley
Social Policy & Programs Consulting ~ Community Matters
P.O. Box 97803 ~ Pittsburgh, PA 15227 ~ 412-310-4886 ~ email@example.com
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