LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

Powering benefits navigation with smart design

The social safety net is our promise to the most vulnerable members of our community. Yet many low-income families live in fear of losing their benefits and struggle to maintain access to these lifelines. F4GI is building a welfare benefits screener to help low-income families understand the impact of participating in cash transfer programs, which will demystify benefits interactions, reduce fear around benefits loss, and enable more equitable access to guaranteed income for those who need it most.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Income Inequality

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

We spend hundreds of billions on welfare systems, yet the social safety net is strained to the breaking point, failing to reach those who need it the most. COVID-19-relief program (i.e. CARES Act, Expanded food stamps) are expiring before families have recovered from the economic devastation - and as the cost of living is rising. Cash transfers that provide regular, stable income support will be a critical supplement to existing benefits for many families. However, for some families, participating in a cash transfer pilot is not worth the risk. Constantly maintaining eligibility for existing (yet inadequate) benefits is dehumanizing and creates fear of benefits loss. A maze of phone menus, complex forms, and shifting eligibility criteria, many families just give up. Low levels of support makes people choose between medicine and food.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

The F4GI benefits navigator is an online tool that can be accessed on web and mobile, in multiple languages. It asks a series of simple questions and can be completed in less than 5 minutes. At the end of the process, families receive information about the potential impact to their benefits and are connected to a benefits counselor for a live one-on-one counseling session. Through smart design, the benefits tool appears simple. Yet under the surface, the tool automatically screens guaranteed income applicants for potential benefits interactions and instantaneously estimates their benefits loss. F4GI's Benefits Screener is the first tool built to integrate seamlessly with the guaranteed income enrollment process. Supported benefits include SSI, CalFresh, CalWorks, Head Start, Affordable Connectivity, Section 8 HUD. With additional resources, we will improve how easily participants can share information about their households. F4GI's benefits screener addresses these systemic conditions by providing a platform for families to understand their benefits impact and provides a pathway to guaranteed income for even the most complex benefits cases. A future iteration of the tool will support people's ability to understand what unclaimed welfare benefits they are eligible for but not participating in. A feature will include a feature to support enrollment, with an option for counseling by text message, to help out families that have a busy schedule.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Immediate income relief: In the short term, guaranteed income helps pay for rent, food, medicine and other essentials. Additional income can help a family stay housed, provide room to breathe or the chance to make a short term investment in their home, family, or career. Investment in Community: Guaranteed income is a proven pathway to gainful employment, creating conditions for people to find and keep jobs and build wealth. By increasing the amount of cash transfers and resources available to communities of color, F4GI supports long term job and wealth creation. Scaling our approach: In the last 6 months, F4GI has doubled the number of families receiving unconditional cash transfers (from 800 to 1600) and increased to over 4,000 beneficiaries served. With additional resources, our goal is to scale it to additional programs, add new benefits, and make the screener available to both guaranteed income initiatives around the country and as a stand alone tool available to the public.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

F4GI launched the benefits screener in Long Beach with a guaranteed income program serving 250 families. Our impact is measured in the number of participants successfully screened, the accuracy of benefits impact calculated for participating families, and the number of unique features built to tailor this solution to the end users: benefits counselors and families navigating benefits loss. We will evaluate the project's impact via the following KPIs, analyzing data gathered through web analytics, surveys, and qualitative interviews: Evidence that it is working will be measured in: 1. Number of organizations and programs which use the tool 2. Number of unique visitors to the platform and active monthly users 3. Average time to complete benefits screening for benefits counselors 4. Number users screened for potential benefit eligibility 5. Number of policy recommendations and insights shared by F4GI with policymakers

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 605

Indirect Impact: 1,500