By Rose Afriyie · February 6th, 2016 · 8:55AM
mRelief in Partnership with California Department of Social Services launches new app to help low-income families in San Francisco find out if they qualify for social services.
The web and text messaging based app, available at “74544”, aims to help families in SF County who are eligible for but not receiving CalFresh. The App also addresses Cash and Child Care needs.
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 social services, has partnered with the California Department of Social Services and San Francisco County to bring innovative program screening technology to California. The web and text messaging-based app will screen interested people for potential eligibility for CalFresh, CalWORKS or cash aid and subsidized child care in both English and Spanish. According to a California Food Policy Advocates Report, more than 68,000 San Franciscans San Franciscans are eligible for but not receiving CalFresh, the public benefit commonly known as food stamps.
The screening tool helps people find out if they are likely to qualify for these important programs, with roughly 10 simple questions which take less than 5 minutes to answer. On the mRelief.com platform, families can find out they are likely to qualify by simply answering questions on a form. On the text messaging platform, families can find out if they are likely to qualify by texting “hello” to 74544. They can use keywords to indicate their program(s) of choice such as texting “food” for CalFresh also known as food stamps or “cash” for CalWORKS also known as cash assistance. After completing questions, families will be directed to an actionable next step. People who likely are eligible will be informed about the easiest and fastest way to submit a complete application. People who likely are ineligible will be referred to appropriate alternative assistance nearest to their ZIP code.
Along with debuting a shortcode number that processes 100 text messages per second through Twilio, mRelief also will be doing smart follow-up with people who are likely eligible, such as sending application resources, and offering an application assistance center if a client ever gets stuck in the process. A CalFresh eligible family must prove identity, residency, income, and immigration status for all household members applying for the benefit. Thus, mRelief’s tool will provide customized information on what is needed based on a family’s unique status and reminders on documents needed. These verifications were determined through a partnership with CDSS, SF County and research conducted with support from the Knight Foundation.
“Our aim is to help anyone in need take one small step that unlocks a support system enabling them to get through the entire process,” said Rose Afriyie, Executive Director of mRelief. “We are really excited to contribute to the strong ecosystem of social services in California with accessible tools that will enhance delivery.”
While the launch will include a pilot in San Francisco County and local outreach organizations for clients who need additional follow-up, the tool will be available statewide. “Since many people have phones without data plans or have limited data available, mRelief's text messaging platform is an approach that can help move our participation numbers higher and put more food on the table for people," said Leo O'Farrell, CalFresh (food stamp) Program Director at San Francisco Human Services Agency and County of San Francisco. "Additionally, I’m excited by the smart verification document advice and follow-up offered by mRelief,” said O’Farrell of the Documents Empowerment web-based tool that informs families about what documents they need to submit a complete application after they find out they are likely eligible. Families who find out they likely qualify by texting the “74544” number are also prompted to discover required verifications.
mRelief, which launched in 2013, has a mission to restore dignity by transforming access to social services. The organization’s focus is addressing the $13 billion in unclaimed food stamps in America each year. The organization uses data published by the USDA on data.gov to inform low-income families about their likely eligibility. In Illinois for example, food stamp applicants need to fill out an 18-page application or sit through a 90-minute phone call, and submit as many as 10 required documents. In other states, the application can be more than 20 pages long and involve hours at the public aid office. mRelief has built an easy-to-use platform that allows families to find out if they are likely to qualify for food stamps by answering 10 simple questions in less than five minutes via text or website. Over 100,000 families in 42 states have used mRelief to secure food stamps or other public support.
The mission of the California Department of Social Services is to serve, aid, and protect needy and vulnerable children and adults in ways that strengthen and preserve families, encourage personal responsibility, and foster independence. CDSS has more than 4,600 employees who are responsible for the oversight and administration of programs serving California's most vulnerable residents.