Too many of America’s underserved are missing out on social programs thanks to long lines, exhaustive processes to register and the time and effort it takes before actual benefits ever kick in.
But like many other sectors, technology is increasingly playing a bigger role in turning a daunting procedure into a more accessible one. Nonprofit Single Stop USA is playing its part by launching a platform that enables clients to do online self-screenings to determine federal aid and resources, whether that’s food stamps or Medicaid, and transforming it into a one-stop shop.
Single Stop USA, which first launched in 2007 after spinning off from the New York-based nonprofit Robin Hood Foundation, is an anti-poverty national organization that coordinates social service resources for families and students.
“There are many resources are out there, but one of the biggest problems is a lack of coordination, information, and access,” said Elisabeth Mason, chief executive of Single Stop.
Staffers typically meet with clients in-person, but the nonprofit is aiming to make the process as seamless as an online consultation followed by a virtual check-out with a shopping cart. Mason likens the forthcoming platform to Amazon, which will ask clients a series of questions—including what type of benefits they may be interested in—and then give an estimate of which services a client is eligible for and how much they would receive each year.
Once a client is ready to move forward with the services they’d like to pursue, they can check out using a virtual shopping cart and receive contact information for local recommended providers. The site will also enable users to contact those providers directly through the site.
Akin to Amazon, Mason said, the platform will offer recommendations for other services which similar clients were interested in and will also use digital advertising strategies to determine what people will want when they visit the site.
Single Stop, which operates locations in eight states, will continue to offer in-person visits, much like “the doctor versus the WebMD,” says Mason.
The pilot project will target those in need of college aid along with other social services, but the New York branch may focus on other demographics such as veterans or those looking for early childhood benefits.
The nonprofit is also planning to add video chats for clients who may need assistance to walk through the online process as well as providing analytics for case managers.
While the platform is not expected to launch until later this year, Single Stop is already entertaining the idea of partnering with federal agencies and other organizations to use the platform.
Disrupting social services may be Single Stop’s first step, but it’s a critical one in supporting America’s underserved.