Tags: food | stamps | app | paperwork

Food Stamp App Helps Bay Area Residents Stay Enrolled

Wednesday, 04 Dec 2013 03:14 PM

By Lisa Barron

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A new app can notify San Francisco food stamp recipients that they have to update their paperwork or their benefits will end.

Every month, many of the 34,000 San Francisco households that receive food stamps find their benefits cut off because they haven't submitted the paperwork on time, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

"This happens about 1,000 times a month," Trent Rhorer, head of the San Francisco Human Services Agency, told the newspaper. "In the meantime, they'd lose their benefits for a few weeks. It's a hassle."

Recipients of food stamps are required to fill out forms indicating their income, work status, and other information twice a year, but reminders sent in the mail often arrive late, the Chronicle reports.

This year, Code for America, a nonprofit technology for government group known as "the Peace Corps for geeks," created an application, called "Promptly," that sends text messages to people who use food stamps if they are about to lose their benefits. The messages include a city phone number the person can call to make sure he stays enrolled.

"Many CalFresh [food stamp] recipients in San Francisco discover that they've been disenrolled from benefits while trying to pay for their groceries. It's a stressful and embarrassing moment. What's worse, some of these same people have to reapply for services from scratch," Code for America explains on its website.

"Promptly stops this from happening by sending a text message to recipients before they're disenrolled."

So far, about 1,000 people have reportedly signed up to receive the alerts. Early tests show a response rate of 50 percent, far more than with traditional mail or email, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee's office told the Chronicle.

"It's proven successful," said Rohrer. "They are getting these text messages and they are retaining their benefits, which is the goal of the whole thing."

Meanwhile, Code for America is working on another text message and mobile web app called SnapFresh that can help recipients find stores that accept food stamps, reports the Daily Caller.

The app, which is available in Spanish, Chinese, and English, enables people to type in an address to see a list of nearby shops where they can use their benefits.

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