Policy & Practice | April 2022

from the eld By Aurelle Amram

Building Together: Creating Equitable, People-Centered Services

T he health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 left tens of millions of people needing assis- tance and pushed existing systems and benefit-granting agencies to the brink of their capacity. State leaders quickly implemented new policies and programs and leveraged digital solutions to meet the real-time needs of residents. We understand from conversations with state partners that we’re coming out of the pandemic differently. While the need for assis- tance is ongoing, many state agencies are facing new challenges, such as lower staff capacity. The challenges of today’s social services systems require us to both build on this transforma- tion and respond to these emerging needs, implementing modern and innovative approaches rooted in the principles and practices of the digital age to build together toward people- centered services. Code for America, a nonprofit orga- nization, has worked together with hundreds of governments, from city departments to federal agencies, to take a human-centered approach to better understand and address the needs of the people they serve. Our approach to problem solving puts human needs, capabilities, and behavior first. It is then designed to accommodate those needs, capabili- ties, and ways of behaving. We explore problems and work on solutions col- laboratively with clients, caseworkers, and state leadership to reduce the

benefits applications that save time and make it easier for eligible individuals and families to sign up for benefits. This initiative will build on Code for America’s experience working in partnership with states and commu- nity-based organizations. Here is a small list of examples of our work with states. n Reduced SNAP denials due to missed interviews. In Los Angeles County, one in three SNAP applicants were denied because of a missed interview. In partnership with the

advance human-centered services. The cornerstone of this effort is direct part- nership with states to support them in reimagining the delivery of essential public benefits. In particular, they will focus on closing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation gap by tackling high- impact administrative barriers, increasing Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) participation by expanding the use of digital tools and services to meet the needs of families and community agencies that serve them, and developing integrated

structural causes of poverty. Recently, Code for America

announced a new multiyear initiative to expand our work with states and

See Building Together on page 26

Image via Shutterstock


Policy&Practice April 2022

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