Right now, the people who need access to government benefits are not included in the design of government programs and services. For too many people, the process of applying for and maintaining safety net benefits, such as food assistance, requires navigating a system with many barriers that push them further away from basic needs. More than 37 million people remain in poverty while $60 billion in available public benefits is left on the table.

Our vision: a human-centered safety net—one that is simple and easy for people to access. A human-centered safety net can transform lives in meaningful, measurable ways—making our systems and society more equitable and resilient.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the social safety net was already suffering under the weight of antiquated technological systems, deeply entrenched inequities, and high administrative burdens for people and states alike. The stunning upheaval of 2020 left millions of people in need of assistance and pushed existing safety net systems to the brink of their capacity. The need for a resilient and equitable social safety net has never been more urgent. We’ve launched the Safety Net Innovation Lab to partner with state leaders working to address these challenges and build the path forward together.

Code for America's Safety Net Innovation Lab

The Safety Net Innovation Lab (the Innovation Lab) is a groundbreaking, multi-year initiative to transform America’s safety net by making it easier for people to access public benefits. Using a data-driven, client-informed approach, we help government agencies create services that are easy-to-use, equitable, and built for the digital age.

The Innovation Lab leverages a combination of philanthropic and public funding to transform access to critical safety net programs. We work shoulder-to-shoulder with government to build capacity and streamline benefits applications and renewals.

Our goal is to partner with 15 states on this journey, unlock $30 billion in benefits across food assistance, health care, and other basic needs for 13 million people—and permanently address barriers to enrollment, usage, and retention in safety net programs. Interested in learning more about the Innovation Lab? Join our mailing list for regular updates on our work or reach out to partner with us.

Safety Net Focus Areas

Can you help us ensure people get the benefits they deserve? Donate today to support our work building a more resilient and equitable safety net.

Is your government agency or organization ready to transform America’s social safety net?