Ensuring Access to Paper Options in Federal Government Policies
AF&PA believes the public should be able to choose the manner in which they receive information and services from the government and not be forced into a digital-only option. Paper and digital formats can be complementary; those who wish to receive paper-based communications and documentation should not be forced to either use digital delivery or forgo the information or service.
AF&PA urges members of Congress to protect individual choice in the manner in which they access government information and services.
Paper-based communications are critically important for millions of Americans.
- Federal agencies should not eliminate a paper option without a cost-benefit analysis.
- Federal agencies should provide adequate public notice to people affected by a proposed elimination of paper options, allowing ample opportunity to provide input and taking public comments into account before making a final decision.
- Federal agencies proposing the elimination of paper options must ensure safeguards are put into place to protect personal information from identity theft or fraud before requiring a digital-only option.
- Government proposals to reduce or eliminate paper options should not impose discriminatory fees for access to paper information or services.
Increasingly, government is denying individuals’ access to paper-based versions of important federal information and services, without congressional oversight or public input.
Federal agencies are eliminating services and communications such as social security documents, tax documents and forms, prescription drug labels, and savings bonds in paper formats, forcing Americans digital-only access for critical information.
- Since the U.S Department of Treasury switched to online savings bonds in 2011, federal savings bond sales have plummeted from $1.7 billion in fiscal 2011 to $719 million in fiscal 2013.
- In 2011, the U.S. Department of Treasury began phasing out paper benefits checks and switching recipients to direct deposit or fee-based debit cards, negatively impacting the 8 percent of the population who do not maintain a bank account.
- The Food and Drug Administration is seeking to eliminate printed pharmaceutical labeling in favor of digital-only access to prescription drug information.
- In 2015, the IRS eliminated the printed Tax Guide for Individuals, also known as Publication 17. Previously available for free at U.S. Post Offices and in public libraries, Publication 17 is now only available online or for purchase through the Government Publishing Office, which charges $10.
- The Securities and Exchange Commission issued a Proposed Rule that would eliminate the current requirement for mutual fund companies to transmit financial information to investors in paper format.
The government’s rush to digitize is shortsighted, leaving many people without a viable option.
- Such policies discriminate against millions of Americans, many of whom are in rural communities and/or low income households – 45 percent of seniors do not own a computer and 30 percent of citizens do not have online access at home.
- Many Americans lack computer skills, have concerns about online security, and prefer to have paper documentation of transactions.
For more information, visit afandpa.org/our-products/paper/printing-and-writing-paper or paperoptions.org.