Jun 06 2023

Code for America Unveils Safety Net Benefits Field Guide

CfA found that state agencies continue to improve their online enrollment services, but challenges remain.

Code for America recently released its 2023 Benefits Enrollment Field Guide, a digital visualization tool that seeks to increase online benefits application usability and accessibility across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico., the nonprofit says.

The CfA guide focuses on usability, accessibility and what it calls “human-centered experiences.” The human-centered focus covers ways to improve inefficient enrollment processes so caseworkers aren’t burdened with unnecessary work, which hinders people from getting crucial safety net services when they need them.

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The field guide covers several approaches to digitizing benefits applications and tracks how states compare on mobile responsiveness, time to completion, Spanish-language support and more. The interactive tool aims to help agency leaders, state advocates, researchers, reporters and others understand what people experience as they try to enroll in food, cash, medical and child care assistance nationwide.

The 2023 field guide builds on Code for America’s 2019 efforts to assess public benefits enrollments. The 2019 assessment found that by and large, public benefits programs were lacking online and mobile-friendly applications, though things have improved on those fronts in the past four years. According to CfA, there have never been more state-run online applications than there are now; 44 states offered some form of combined benefits application online as of the first CfA assessment in 2019.

That said, only 52 percent of benefits programs are mobile responsive. Mobile-friendly services are particularly important for low-income citizens, who are often reliant on smartphones to access the internet. Other challenges that remain revolve around language barriers and limited internet accessibility.

UP NEXT: Why Code for America is working closely with state governments.

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