We launched easyfoodstamps.com a few weeks ago, and we need your support to keep it free and reach more eligible Americans.
Think TurboTax, for everything else.
We're starting with food stamps in New York City, and plan to expand to more places and other government benefits programs.
Read about us:
- A Mobile Website that Makes Food Stamp Applications a Snap, on FastCoExist
- Can Tech Help NYC's Low-income Community? on VentureBeat
- 3 Lessons for Building Tech for Low-income Americans on Forbes
What’s wrong with the process now?
Complicated requirements, incomplete instructions, and long office waits make it hard for eligible Americans to get government benefits they need.
Those who apply in person face long lines at food stamp offices and complex forms. People who need food stamps don’t have the luxury of time. An hour spent waiting at a food stamp office means an hour less of wages, or another hour of childcare to pay for.
Though there is an online application for food stamps in New York City, it’s built for people using desktop computers. We believe that applications for benefits should reach people wherever they are, and in 2014, many Americans are on smartphones. Indeed, a recent Pew internet study showed that 45% of low-income Americans who own phones are using their phones as their primary method of accessing the internet.
What we've shipped already:
Easyfoodstamps.com is a website that condenses the current paper application to a few key questions. It prepares you for your SNAP interview in advance, and faxes in documents to SNAP on your behalf, from pictures taken on your phone. And, we built it to work on any smartphone.
In the 3 weeks since we launched it, we’ve submitted food stamp applications for 55 users, and learned a lot about how to build a better experience in the future.
We need your help to keep our service free, and expand beyond New York City, so that we can continue to fight long lines and confusing application forms across the country.
So far, we’ve made some progress on the enrollment process for food stamps in New York City. We’re excited to open up our product nationally, but each state has its own idiosyncratic rules and forms, so we’ll need some time to build custom logic for each state.
But we don’t want to stop at food stamps - with your support, we’d love to expand our work to other complex government applications. Because many government application forms are similar, we can eventually build the “common app” for government benefits.
Who are we?
We began this project at Significance Labs, a nonprofit in Brooklyn focused on harnessing technology to improve the lives of low-income Americans. We believe the world needs more tools to combat poverty -- not more photo-sharing apps. So, we spent this summer talking to New Yorkers who are working hard to get back on their feet. We heard, time and time again, about the ordeals they faced applying for government benefits, and about the workarounds and energy that went into trying to navigate a tangled system.
Other ways to help
Funding through Kickstarter is a key piece of the puzzle, but we're also looking for partners, allies, investors, foundations, and anyone else who wants to get more involved in our project. If you're interested, please reach out: jimmy(at)significancelabs.org.
Risks and challenges
While we're confident that we can have a large positive impact in a small amount of time, we know that this won't be easy. Our lack of official government connection means that it's hard for us to determine whether someone actually successfully received benefits through our product. We'll have to ask our applicants directly. Also, we know that many folks don't know they're eligible for food stamps, and bridging that information gap is a tough problem that we aren't actively addressing now. Finally, while we are excited to expand nationwide, every state has a slightly different food stamp application, so we'll have to write custom logic for each state.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)