Our Path Forward to Transform the Social Safety Net

Announcing Code for America’s new Safety Net Innovation Lab
Sketch drawing of four people helping each other across a net with the words

Today, we announced a historic investment in Code for America and our vision for a truly human-centered safety net. Over the next seven years, building on the work we’ve already done to reimagine safety net services, we will partner with 15 states to reach 13 million people and unlock $30 billion in benefits in the areas of food assistance, health care, and other basic needs through our new Safety Net Innovation Lab.

Last year, we wrote about why a people-centered, digital-first safety net was so critical for not just this moment in time, but our country’s future. As the COVID-19 pandemic put the cracks in our systems on full display, governments across the country took huge leaps to try to make sure benefits could still be delivered to millions of families. They stood up a new Pandemic-EBT program to keep kids fed when schools were closed. They used best practices in text communications to inform residents about how to access services. Now is the time to build on that momentum, and help states redesign safety net systems that will serve people for decades to come. 

We know that changing what has been the status quo for years—if not decades—will be far from easy. But it’s never been more important. As our world grows more uncertain, we need resilient systems in place that will be ready to meet moments of crisis and serve people equitably and effectively. And we know that it’s possible to build them.

We’re incredibly grateful to our supporters for their belief in our vision of systemic change. And while this is a huge milestone for Code for America, it’s only the first step toward a much larger goal of transforming the safety net. 

This work is generational, and we’ll need an entire ecosystem to make it happen. We’re so excited to build on existing partnerships and make new ones in all corners of the country. We know that there are countless dedicated public servants who are on the front lines of our fight against poverty every day. The Innovation Lab will serve as a creative research and development space for our work as we provide them with the tools and data they need to modernize services to better serve clients with dignity and respect.

And we know it’s not just about digitizing existing services and processes. At this moment where technology is making things faster, more efficient, and automatic, we must also make it kinder, respectful, and more equitable—or we will risk automating inequality and leaving people even farther behind.

We’re focusing our efforts on the social safety net because it’s one of the most critical systems we have. But ultimately, our goal is to bring this kind of transformational change to all of government. We know that redesigning our systems—making them more accessible, equitable, and easy to use—will strengthen our institutions and improve people’s lives. 

We have a lot of work to do. But today, we’re taking a very important step on the path to building the government our future needs. 

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