How technology helps the poor get government assistance

Sometimes obstacles to help are created on purpose. When Florida’s unemployment system proved unresponsive at the start of the pandemic,...


Sometimes obstacles to help are created on purpose. When Florida’s unemployment system proved unresponsive at the start of the pandemic, Governor Ron DeSantis told CBS Miami last year that the administration of its predecessor designed it to hunt people. “It was, ‘Let’s put so many unnecessary roadblocks along the way, so people just say, oh damn, I’m not going to do that,'” he said. (Mr. DeSantis and his predecessor, Rick Scott, are both Republicans.)

Other programs are hampered by inadequate personnel and technology simply because the poor they serve lack political clout. Historically, administrative barriers have been tools of racial discrimination. And federal oversight may encourage caution, as states risk heavier penalties for helping those ineligible than for failing to help those who qualify.

To show that Michigan’s app was too complex, Civilla essentially turned to the theater, leading officials through an exhibit with fake clients and office sounds meant to trace an app’s bureaucratic journey. In collaboration with the state, the company created a new application with 80% fewer words; the company is now working in Missouri.

Michael Brennan, co-founder of Civilla, pointed out that Michigan’s work is bipartisan – it started under a Republican governor and continued under a Democrat – and saves time for the client and the state.

“Change is possible,” he said.

With its California portal, Code for America has cut the time it takes to request food stamps by three-quarters or more. The portal has been optimized for mobile phones, ie the number of poor people who use the Internet, and it offers chat functions in English, Spanish and Chinese. In countries with technology, demands increased by 11%, while elsewhere the number decreased slightly.

During the pandemic, Code for America built portals to help poor households claim stimulus checks and enlargement child tax credit. The latter alone delivered nearly $ 400 million. David Newville, who oversaw the work, quoted a colleague as explaining why web design is important: “Implementation is justice.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: How technology helps the poor get government assistance
How technology helps the poor get government assistance
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