SAN FRANCISCO, March 23, 2023 – Code for America—the leading civic tech nonprofit that works with community leaders and governments to build equitable, accessible digital tools and services—today announced the Safety Net Innovation Lab will work shoulder-to-shoulder with New York, New Mexico, Maryland, and the District of Columbia to reimagine and rebuild the delivery of safety net benefits.
The challenges posed by COVID-19 and subsequent economic uncertainty reinforce the need for government services to be delivered in a way that is equitable, easy-to-use, and built for the digital age. In 2022, Code for America secured $100 million in philanthropic funding through The Audacious Project and Blue Meridian Partners to create the Safety Net Innovation Lab (the Innovation Lab). The Innovation Lab aims to work with 15 states over seven years to reach 13 million people and unlock $30 billion in benefits by improving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) service delivery, increasing Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) participation, and developing and improving single, integrated benefits applications.
“Code for America works shoulder-to-shoulder with government partners and community organizations with the goal of creating a human-centered safety net,” said Amanda Renteria, CEO of Code for America. “Through the Safety Net Innovation Lab, state governments are taking major steps toward systemic change in how people receive benefits like food assistance, health care and other basic needs. We are excited to launch our second cohort with New York, New Mexico, Maryland, and DC as we look to further advance this work.”
In May 2022, Code for America announced the first cohort of state partners including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Louisiana. Code for America’s existing track record of helping to improve the delivery of integrated benefits in Minnesota and food assistance in California, combined with lessons learned from the first cohort, will help inform custom solutions developed for New York, New Mexico, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
In each state, the Innovation Lab will work closely with public servants to improve the equity and accessibility of core safety net benefits by discovering the most promising opportunities, designing human-centered tools and technologies, and handing off scalable solutions. The cohort model also offers the benefit of peer learning for state partners. Code for America will work with the second cohort to improve outcomes, including:
- District of Columbia: Integrated benefits. Code for America and the District of Columbia’s Department of Human Services (DHS) will work together to streamline the design of the existing integrated online benefits application for food and cash assistance, healthcare, and other basic needs to make it easier to use and reduce the time it takes to apply for multiple benefits programs.
- Maryland: Integrated benefits. Code for America and the Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) will work together to streamline the design of the existing integrated online benefits application for food and cash assistance, healthcare, and other basic needs to make it easier to use and reduce the time it takes to apply for multiple benefits programs.
- New Mexico: Enhanced customer experience. Code for America and the New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) will better leverage customer service data in order to improve customer interactions and customer satisfaction with services offered by the Human Services Department, including food and cash assistance, healthcare and other basic needs.
- New York: Client feedback to improve the WIC customer experience. Code for America and the New York State Department of Health will collaborate to pilot live chat and other methods of gathering WIC client feedback. Based on that feedback, Code for America and New York will implement improvements to WIC service delivery to increase participation and benefit redemption.
“It is a priority for HSD to meet customers where they are, especially as we serve 51 percent of New Mexico’s population,” said New Mexico Human Services Department Acting Secretary, Kari Armijo. “Our goal is to give our customers the best possible experience when they are enrolling in HSD programs.”
“Code for America’s values align perfectly with our own,” said Maryland Department of Human Services Secretary, Rafael López. “By choosing a savvy and people-focused partner, we will ensure that Marylanders are able to easily access the help they need when they need it most. Code for America will work with our team to help us implement bold solutions to ensure none of our families get left behind.”
“It is important for all New York families to have easy access to the wholesome foods required for the growth and development of children,” New York Acting Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. “Input from families who participate in the WIC program will allow for an enhanced customer experience. That’s why, the New York State Department of Health is collaborating with Code for America to test live chat and other techniques for gathering input that will help increase participation and make the WIC program more user-friendly.”
Representatives from state, tribal nation, district, and territory governments interested in working with Code for America to improve benefits service delivery are encouraged to fill out a partnership form to discuss potential partnership opportunities.
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. 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.