Code for America Unveils First Cohort of State Partners to Launch Effort Transforming Nation’s Social Safety Net

Through the Safety Net Innovation Lab, Code for America has built groundbreaking partnerships with California, Colorado, Connecticut, and Louisiana to kickstart a multi-year effort to reimagine and rebuild the delivery of equitable, accessible benefits

SAN FRANCISCO – Code for America—the leading tech nonprofit that works with community leaders and governments to build equitable, accessible digital tools and services—today announced that California, Colorado, Connecticut, and Louisiana have committed to partnering with the Safety Net Innovation Lab (the Lab) to transform how social safety net services are delivered. A fifth state partnership will be announced later this summer, rounding out the first of three cohorts, each with five states.  

Last month, Code for America announced that it had secured philanthropic commitments of $100 million to launch the Lab, which will work with 15 states over seven years to reach 13 million people and unlock $30 billion in benefits in the areas of food assistance, health care, and other basic needs. Representatives from state, tribal nation, district, and territory governments interested in joining the Lab’s next cohort are encouraged to complete Code for America’s Request for Information released today and available at codeforamerica.org/SafetyNetRFI

“Today represents a major milestone on our journey to transform America’s safety net and make public benefits more accessible and equitable for all,” said Amanda Renteria, CEO of Code for America. “We are excited to break ground on this initiative with our state partners in California, Colorado, Connecticut, and Louisiana and look forward to collaborating with other states to create a truly human-centered social safety net across the nation.” 

In the coming months, the Lab will work shoulder-to-shoulder with public servants on the most promising opportunities in each state to improve the equity and accessibility of core safety net benefits: 

  • California: Food Assistance. Code for America and the California Department of Social Services will work together to translate lessons learned from the existing SNAP-focused partnership to statewide online benefits initiatives, and improve SNAP outreach to hard-to-reach populations, including non-English speakers and those with limited geographic access to existing application assistance.
  • Colorado: Integrated benefits. Code for America and the State of Colorado will work together to streamline the design of the existing integrated online benefits application for food and cash assistance, healthcare, childcare, and other basic needs to make it easier to use and reduce the time it takes to apply for multiple benefits programs. 
  • Connecticut: Food Assistance. Code for America will work with the Connecticut Department of Social Services to increase participation by more potentially eligible individuals and families by improving the reporting experience and finding solutions that help families more easily maintain benefits. 
  • Louisiana: Food Assistance. Code for America will partner with the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services to improve the SNAP benefits journey for both customers and workers, including streamlining the design of existing digital tools and reducing the time it takes to apply and process applications.

In each state, the Lab will identify opportunities for improvements and create solutions through an agile and iterative process to ensure desired outcomes. At the end of the partnership, the Lab will fully transition these solutions to the state and/or vendors of their choice. 

 “Access to federal nutrition services is absolutely key when it comes to putting healthy food on the table for hundreds of thousands of lower-income Connecticut families and individuals,” said Connecticut Department of Social Services Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford. “For so many households in Connecticut and across the country, SNAP is the first line of defense against hunger and food insecurity.  We look forward to working with Code for America to accelerate our use of digital tools and communication measures to help more Connecticut residents access and maintain crucial SNAP benefits.”

“After listening to the needs of our community, we are taking action to improve equitable access to social safety net benefits in Louisiana, specifically by revisiting our integrated benefits application portal and reducing the time it takes to apply and process SNAP applications,” said Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services Deputy Secretary Terri Ricks. “Code for America promises to be an integral partner in this work and we can’t wait to get started.”

Three Steps Toward Reimagining and Rebuilding the Delivery of Benefits

Under the Lab, Code for America’s team—including engineers, product managers, researchers, and designers—will work with state partners through three phases of work:

  1. Insight and Impact: Each partnership will start by identifying what is the most promising opportunity with the biggest impact. A collaborative decision will be made as to what can be implemented at scale to move the needle on equitable access to the social safety net. 
  2. Design and Deliver: Code for America will work with state officials to find solutions, iterating, building, and scaling these solutions over a period of 12 to 18 months to ensure the intended client outcomes. 
  3. Handoff and Sustain: The last six to nine months will focus on a wind-down and handoff phase—so that whatever is implemented is fully transitioned to the state partner or vendor of choice for long-term sustainability. 

Throughout the process, Code for America will share learnings across each cohort of states and the field to spread lessons learned to a broader audience. 

Safety Net Innovation Lab: Advancing Human-Centered Delivery

In April, Code for America established the Safety Net Innovation Lab, funded by $100 million through The Audacious Project and Blue Meridian Partners, to partner with government agencies and community organizations to reimagine the delivery of government services that are equitable, easy-to-use, and built for the digital age. The initiative will focus on three primary areas: improving SNAP service delivery, increasing WIC participation, and developing and improving single, integrated benefits applications.

At the 2022 TED Conference in Vancouver, CEO Amanda Renteria gave a TED Talk where she laid out the vision for safety net transformation and introduced the Safety Net Innovation Lab. The full Ted Talk can be viewed here

Those interested in learning more are encouraged to sign up for the Code for America newsletter and follow along on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for the latest news. 

About Code for America 

Code for America, a nonprofit founded in 2009, believes that government can work for the people, and by the people, in the digital age. We work with government at all levels across the country to make the delivery of public services equitable with technology. Together with thousands of volunteers across over 80 Brigade chapters in the U.S., we work with community organizations and governments to build digital tools, change policies, and improve programs. Our goal: a resilient government that effectively and equitably serves everyone. Learn more at codeforamerica.org.

Related stories

Our Path Forward to Transform the Social Safety Net
April 12, 2022
Our Top Tips for Creating Integrated Public Benefits Systems
December 16, 2022
The Five Basics of Texting for a Human-Centered Safety Net
November 2, 2022