California counties make it easier to apply for CalFresh
Counties across California are working to enroll more eligible families in CalFresh (the state’s food stamps program) so that they can afford healthy food. Even with so many community-based organizations and human service agencies trying to help, complicated rules and software make it hard for many people to get the benefits they need.
An online application is available in California, yet it can take up to an hour to complete, is more than 50 web pages long, and filled with over a hundred questions. Most who start it don’t finish it. It also doesn't work on mobile devices, despite the fact that most low-income people rely on smartphones for access to the Internet.
GetCalFresh.org is an easier way to apply for food assistance online and on mobile. The application is simple and clear, and it takes about just a few minutes to complete. California counties are using GetCalFresh to make applying easier. More importantly, they are making the rest of the process easier based on the data about barriers to enrollment Code for America collects through follow up texts.
Developing a mobile-first approach
Spending time with CalFresh applicants made it clear to the team that applying for food stamps is the most challenging for the 1/3 of Californians that try to apply online. The first step: design a simple, easy-to-use application for users filling out the application on their smartphones.
The team also focused on building an application that was intuitive and respectful: by thoughtfully wording the way questions are posed to users, how the software responds to a user’s actions, and the amount of time that the application asks of people.
The result is a service called GetCalFresh.org, an easier way to begin the application process for enrolling in CalFresh. With GetCalFresh.org, people can apply for CalFresh online or on their phones through a clearly worded, easy to use interface. The application takes about 10 minutes to complete.
GetCalFresh.org addresses not only the beginning of a client’s journey with CalFresh. It is followed-up with a set of timely reminders and customer support features that help clients stay on course as they navigate the entire eligibility determination process.
The work with Code for America has focused San Francisco on improving the user customer experience. It's clear there is significant work to be done to improve system design and user experience locally and across the state.
— Leo O'Farrell, CalFresh Director, San Francisco Human Services Agency