Code for America is ready to respond in times of crisis. We partner with government and community organizations to make sure that when disaster strikes, families have the resources to take care of themselves. We have years of expertise reaching families and individuals who are marginalized, and are eager to put those skills to work at the moment they’re needed most. In times of crisis, we can help government reach people who are often left out of public safety net programs.
One of our core values at Code for America is to create lasting impact. Moments of crisis are useful for highlighting areas that need long-term transformation. We aim to make the changes we work on stick for long after the crisis—so that when the next one hits, government and communities are more resilient.
When the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools in 2020, many children were left without free and reduced-priced meals. Coming up with 10 extra meals a week was a challenge for many parents. In response, the federal government authorized a new benefits program, the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT). Families that would normally get meals at school could now receive money on an EBT card.
Code for America has been working with families who receive food assistance for over a decade. We provided knowledge and technical assistance to states that were struggling to distribute benefits. We also built an online P-EBT application for the states of Minnesota and California, helping distribute over $619 million in food aid. In its first week, the online application in California helped more than 1.3 million kids get access to food. We’re now working to help state governments accurately identify families eligible for P-EBT, rather than making families apply to receive this benefit.
Disaster Relief for Immigrants
We worked with California during the pandemic to distribute a state-based aid program known as Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants (DRAI). DRAI distributed emergency cash assistance to immigrants who were undocumented and had lost income or suffered health impacts from COVID-19. Notably, the program helped people who could not access any federal or state assistance because of their immigration status.
Code for America has always prioritized working with communities who are excluded from the social safety net. In only 35 days, we built a system for the state to distribute money to community-based organizations, who in turn provided $500 debit cards to people experiencing hardships. DRAI distributed $75 million to 150,000 undocumented individuals. The program inspired efforts to provide immigrants with relief in Washington and Michigan as well. We used the moment to build better partnerships with government. Now people who receive DRAI are referred to other programs that help them access benefits, like Code for America’s own GetYourRefund.