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June 6, 2018

Contact: Zareena Meyn, Growth & Partnerships Manager, mRelief

Phone: 847-239-0328

mRelief launches end-to-end SMS application in California, powered by Twilio

Chicago, June 6, 2018 - mRelief is thrilled to announce the launch of an end-to-end text messaging application for CalFresh, the food stamps program in the state of California. mRelief currently serves as a state vendor in California providing CalFresh enrollment services with an emphasis on disconnected populations, low-income families without access to the internet or who run out of data each month.

“We are grateful to support low-income families throughout California with an option to apply that is as easy as a text messaging conversation ” said Rose Afriyie Executive Director. “Our aim is to ensure that anyone can access the safety net without it contributing to the already stressful circumstance of poverty.”

The CalFresh application can be completed over text messaging and voice in under 8 minutes and can be seen here. Applicants can provide sensitive information and sign the application through a voice recording initiated by a scheduled call to the applicant at the conclusion of the text messaging conversation. Applicants are given opportunities to correct mistakes and receive encouragement every step of the way.

“We are always looking for innovative and convenient new ways to connect Yolo County residents to our services,” said Yolo County Health and Human Services Branch Director Nolan Sullivan. “mRelief’s updated platform, combined with the Federal Lifeline Phone program, allows food insecure Yolo County residents to apply over the web, and perhaps even more easily, via text message. As long as residents have access to SMS text, we can get them access to food. It is great.”

mRelief launched live on the web and on text messaging in 2014. Since then, the nonprofit has served more than 260,000 families by connecting them to food aid and other public support.

“mRelief’s success connecting people with social services is inspiring,” said Meghan Nesbit, director of nonprofit market development at Twilio.org. “By using SMS to drive enrollment in CalFresh, mRelief is making vital financial assistance more accessible than ever before."

Support towards mRelief’s work ensures that first-rate, accessible technology will exist for our most vulnerable Americans and that the mission to restore dignity by transforming access to social services will be closer to being realized.

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mRelief’s mission is to restore dignity by transforming access to social services, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The SNAP application process has 5 steps: 1) eligibility discovery 2) application submission 3) interview completion 4) submission of documents 5) receipt of card. mRelief is live in 42 states through a partnership with the USDA at data.gov. The software development team is woman-founded and the team remains woman-centered and non-binary inclusive with an approach to making an impact with technology while valuing diversity and inclusion.

Start by finding out if you qualify 10 questions, 3 minutes.

mRelief

321 N. Clark Street

Chicago, IL 60654

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SNAP Food Stamp Benefits Already too Low, President’s Budget Cuts Ignore Americans

Media Contact: Rose Afriyie, Executive Director, mRelief

rose@mrelief.com

415.529.6641

Statement attributed to Rose Afriyie, Executive Director, mRelief

Chicago, IL - Access to food is a human right. People need food to live, work, and participate in civic life. The President’s budget proposal, which slashes SNAP benefits by $213 billion, seeks to deny Americans access to basic sustenance because it result in cuts that leave families worse off than they are already.

This week the University of Illinois and Urban Institute shared that in 99 percent of counties, the SNAP-per-meal benefit does not cover the cost of a low-income meal. Further, the cost of a meal is 27 percent higher than the actual benefit amount.

Cuts to SNAP mean cuts to families. According to an analysis of the budget proposal by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the proposal puts access to food at risk for 1 in 10 Americans.

mRelief is a nonprofit that has built an end-to-end tool to enroll families in SNAP in a fastt, dignified, affirming process. We asked our users, SNAP recipients whom we partnered with the San Francisco Human Services Agency to enroll, about their reactions to the budget and how cuts to SNAP would affect their families.

The Voices of Americans Actually on SNAP

Many families need SNAP because their personal health or the health of a loved one has interfered with their ability to be employed. And some just have health restrictions and are in need of supplemental income.

Howard Vicini: “A majority of my [SNAP] I spent on yogurt.”

“It is going to be sorely missed,” says Howard Vicini, 69, who fears his $15 SNAP benefit might disappear if the President’s budget is passed. CBPP estimates that Vicini would be among the 2 million Americans affected by another cut within the budget seeking to eliminate the minimum benefit of SNAP. The cut targets mainly low-income seniors and people with disabilities.

Vicini goes onto share “I’ve been ill with an autoimmune disease, otherwise I’d still be working.” According to a 2015 National Health Interview Survey, an estimated 11 million people on SNAP have a health or work limitation.

In terms of what he buys with SNAP, he shares how his health condition has impacted the types of foods he can consume “[As] a result of my illness, my teeth have gone from decent to rotting in my mouth… last month a majority of my [SNAP] I spent on yogurt, soft things I can get down to maintain some weight.”

Teresa Redmon: “6 chicken breasts...into 18 meals”

Teresa Redmon, 62, fell on hard times after part of her foot was amputated and she was no longer able to work. “I buy 6 chicken breasts and turn it into 18 meals,” says Teresa, 62, who remarked that cuts to the SNAP program would mean, “I would not be able to have the food that I have - $192 is not a lot of money.”

Redmon believes that SNAP should not be cut and that it is a fair entitlement: “I worked all my life - I paid into the system [and] it’s my turn to get some help from the government.”

Mya Byrne says the cuts: “will completely decimate my budget”

Mya Byrne, 39, also uses SNAP to purchase foods consistent with her health needs, “I use it to buy the gluten free food that I have to eat for my food allergies.” She says the cuts would “completely decimate my budget and make it really difficult to pay my rent.”

Jorge Vasquez: “Do we want to be a society if things go south, you know there is help?”

“I applied for the program because my mother had a heart attack and I went to go take care of her,” says Jorge Vasquez Collado, 22, who uses SNAP to buy pasta and rice. He fears cuts would affect him if he got laid off from his job, “Lowering the benefits almost entirely removes a family having a go-to. It’s almost like - do we want to be a society if things go south, you know there is help. Or if things go south you are less stressed.”

Jeanee Beauchamp on SNAP: “I really needed it...to take some time off for my baby.”

Then there are Americans who work but still qualify for SNAP. “It’s dumb,” Jeanee Beauchamp, 30, says of the cuts, “I really needed it because I was working and I had to take some time off for my baby. But I went on maternity leave and they only pay you for so long.” Beauchamp is among the 60 percent of SNAP beneficiaries with children who do not have an elderly or disabled adult in the home and earn income while participating in SNAP.

Beauchamp, who was grilling vegetables she had bought with SNAP, shared her thoughts about the budget. “A lot of people, including working families... should be able to contact and go to our government for help.”

Nicodemus Robedillo, without SNAP: “We were borrowing money from relatives.”

“I am only working part-time, my hours are not sure,” says Nicodemus Robedillo, 30. Robedillo, who uses his SNAP benefit to buy a month’s worth of food in one purchase, is concerned about the cuts. “Of course, I am worried, because it helps our family. When we were not enrolled on the CalFresh [California’s moniker for the SNAP program], we were borrowing money from relatives.”

Anija Gaino: SNAP for his lunch break at work

For some, having the benefit is sustenance that helps them keep their job. Anija Gaino, 26, is a SNAP recipient who shares Robedillo’s concern about the cuts, “I personally think that it would be a bad idea. I may work — but I don’t always get enough.” Gaino buys fruits, salads and vegetables that he packs with him for his lunch break at work, “I feel like it can affect a lot of families and individual people who depend on it and need breaks.”

Sandy Lopez: “low-income people … can’t afford to have this cut”

“I don’t believe it should be cut, single mothers, low-income people … can’t afford to have this cut,” says Sandy Lopez, 27, a mother of 2 who uses SNAP to buy baby cereal and applesauce. “We would have less food - a lot of people depend on that.”

Despite the cuts, an estimated 9 million families are eligible for SNAP and not receiving the benefit. Support mRelief.com by sharing our website on social media and encouraging your followers to visit mRelief.com: in 10 questions and 5 minutes you can find out if you qualify for SNAP. Regardless of the outcome, we will share food help with dignity.

About mRelief

mRelief’s mission is to restore dignity by transforming access to social services. The all-woman founded nonprofit is headquartered in Chicago. Through a partnership with the USDA and Data.gov, our platform is live in 42 states.

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January 17th, 2018 · 9:00 AM

Contact: Rose Afriyie, Executive Director, mRelief

rose@mrelief.com

mRelief launches End-to-End Mobile Tool to Enroll Californians in CalFresh

The tool is the latest effort underway to stem student hunger amid recent reports that 48 percent of students are food insecure.

Launching on UC Davis Campus in Yolo County, eligible CalFresh applicants can now schedule, submit documents and retrieve benefits via mobile devices.

Davis, CA - mRelief’s easy-to-use web and text messaging platform, launched in partnership with the California Department of Social Services in February 2017 helps low-income Americans find out if they qualify for food stamps. Today they launch an end-to-end process which is being utilized to address the barriers eligible users face securing CalFresh benefits. After low-income families discover eligibility, they can now use a mobile-responsive platform to apply, schedule an interview and submit necessary verifications for CalFresh benefits – the three required steps to receive food benefits.

“This is so easy,” posted Glenda Ross, a CalFresh applicant who was recently approved and used the tool to navigate the process. Ross went on to say, “No standing in line for hours just to see a worker. Interview conducted over phone and approved the same day. This is extremely efficient and hassle free. Modern technology at its best.”

Video Demo.

After submitting an application for CalFresh benefits, applicants must complete a required interview. The mRelief tool has an adaptive SMS (text messaging) flow to facilitate the applicant’s preferred experience. Via the mRelief platform, applicants can receive reminders, text required documents ahead of their interview and receive updates on delays and outstanding documents. In initial testing of the tool, more than 70 percent went on to attend the required interview.

“We started this work providing information to clients on whether they met the basic requirements,” said Rose Afriyie executive director of mRelief. “Now, in partnership with government, we have built a platform that helps clients apply, share times to complete application requirements so interviews don’t conflict with work or school, and know at each step what is outstanding to enroll.”

The pervasiveness of student hunger underscored the need for this technology on local campuses. A 2016 report by Students Against Hunger showed that 48 percent of students were food insecure in the past 30 days. In September 2016, AB 1747 was signed into law in California requiring campus eateries to register to accept purchases under CalFresh. “We are really excited to partner with mRelief to leverage SMS and its power to help serve students in need, and the overall community, ” said Nolan Sullivan, Yolo County Health & Human Services Agency, service center branch director.

Student Outreach Campaign.

"More than ever, students are juggling coursework, part-time jobs and personal lives, thinking about where their next meal comes from becomes a major stressor,” says UC Davis Global Food Initiative fellow, Dana Ng. “With CalFresh, satisfying the basic need of getting a meal is made possible and more accessible for students."

The process has been made possible by collaborations with County employees to ensure that optimizations to CalFresh enrollment are consistent with existing business processes and do not involve extensive manual work by case workers. Overall, the application tool eliminates manual follow-up that is currently done to facilitate scheduling and long term case management that requires in-person help.

About Yolo County Health & Human Services Agency

Yolo County Health & Human Services Agency promotes a healthy, safe and economically stable community. Their values are: collaborative – promoting teamwork and partnership; accountable – transparent, efficient, and effective; respectful – demonstrating integrity and trust; equitable – honoring diversity and promoting equality; and strategic – forward thinking and innovative.

About mRelief

mRelief has built as easy-to-use platform on web and text messaging for low-income Americans to find out if they qualify and enroll in food stamps. Their mission is to restore dignity by transforming access to social services. The organization is a vendor to the California Department of Social Services and the Yolo County Health & Human Services Agency. mRelief has connected more than 230,000 families to social services.

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January 9th, 2018 · 9:00 AM

Contact: Rose Afriyie

rose@mrelief.com

mRelief launches an End-to-End Mobile Tool to Enroll Californians in CalFresh

Launching in San Francisco County, eligible CalFresh applicants can now schedule, submit documents, and retrieve benefits all via mobile.

San Francisco, CA - mRelief, the easy-to-use platform on web and text messaging that helps low-income Americans find out if they qualify for food stamps launches an end-to-end process with an emphasis on addressing the barriers eligible users face securing benefits. After low-income families discover eligibility, they can now use a mobile-responsive platform to apply, schedule an interview, and submit necessary verifications -- the 3 required steps to receive CalFresh food assistance benefits. CalFresh is a federally funded supplemental nutrition benefit (formerly known as food stamps) that increases meal budgets and access to better nutrition for California households.

“ ...Interview conducted over phone and approved the same day. This is extremely efficient and hassle free. Modern technology at its best,” Glenda Ross posted an applicant who was recently approved and used the tool to navigate the process.

Video Demo.

After screening at www.mrelief.com/calfresh and a client is deemed likely eligible, a user must submit a CalFresh application and complete a required interview that can be done in-person or over the phone. mRelief’s tool has an adaptive SMS flow for the applicant’s preferred experience. Those who apply in person are provided free Lyft rides, funded by philanthropic donations. In-person applicants can also coordinate their arrival and departure, receive navigation help to the card distribution center, and share approval outcomes -- all via SMS. Phone applicants can receive reminders, text documents ahead of their interview for case worker viewing, and can receive updates on delays and outstanding documents.

“We started this work providing actionable information to clients on eligibility,” said Rose Afriyie Executive Director of mRelief. “Now, in partnership with government, we have built an affirming platform that helps applicants take the actions they need to actually enroll.”

The partnership with San Francisco Human Services Agency (HSA), responsible for administration of CalFresh benefits for San Francisco residents, launched as a pilot effort in February 2017 and included the California Department of Social Services. Since then, the tool has evolved from one that helps clients find out if they qualify for CalFresh to assisting clients after they apply to complete outstanding steps for enrollment. In initial testing of the tool, more than 70 percent of clients went on to attend the required interview with HSA, a step required to receive benefits.

The enhanced process was designed to ensure that optimizations to CalFresh enrollment are consistent with existing business processes. Clients benefit from a streamlined eligibility screening receiving a result in ~10 questions that take less than 5 minutes to answer. Along with digital application assistance, mRelief’s text messages include interview scheduling confirmations, guidance on documentation requirements to enroll, and helpful messages on the day of the interview. The application tool also eliminates manual follow-up that is currently done to facilitate interview scheduling and long term case management that requires in-person help. Clients benefit from help with account creation so that they can later submit forms for renewal or report changes through myBenefits CalWin without in-person assistance.

About California Department of Social Services

The San Francisco Human Services Agency (HSA) promotes well-being and self-sufficiency among individuals, families and communities in San Francisco. The Agency delivers a safety net of services and public benefits that are designed to meet the unique needs of low-income individuals, children and families, older adults, and adults with disabilities. As a state-mandated county public social services agency, HSA provides public assistance through cash assistance, food and nutritional support, health insurance (Medi-Cal), employment training, child care subsidies, in home care, and supportive housing and shelter, among other services.

About mRelief

mRelief has built as easy-to-use platform on web and text messaging for low-income Americans to find out if they qualify and enroll in food stamps. Their mission is to restore dignity by transforming access to social services. The organization is a vendor to the California Department of Social Services and Yolo County Health and Human Services Agency. mRelief has connected more than 230,000 families to social services.

mRelief is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Over 230,000 families connected to social services and counting.