April 16, 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK — Today the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity), within the Mayor’s Office of Operations, announced the release of the NYC Benefits Screening Application Programming Interface (Screening API). The Screening API makes the eligibility criteria governing 30+ social service benefits easily available so that more technology-based tools can be used to advise New Yorkers about programs for which they may qualify. The Screening API was developed by NYC Opportunity with technology partner WebIntensive and with funding support from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.
The Screening API extends the reach of ACCESS NYC, the City’s award-winning online benefits screening platform. New York City residents can go to ACCESS NYC (www.nyc.gov/accessnyc), answer a brief set of questions to discover whether they’re likely eligible for food, money, housing, or work benefit programs, and find out how to apply. The platform accepts dozens of pieces of information, such as a person’s marital status or income, and returns a list of potentially applicable government programs.
The new Screening API makes the programming rules that produce ACCESS NYC’s screening results available to other technology applications. By using the API, organizations which develop their own digital tools to advise clients about applying to relevant benefits will not have to track the policy and eligibility changes for the social services included in ACCESS NYC; the API will reflect the ongoing updates that are monitored by ACCESS NYC’s team and their partners across City government. The service gives community-based and civic technology organizations more opportunity to tailor their own unique tools to improve their clients’ experiences, and identify new ways to integrate benefits screening with other services.
The Screening API is the latest effort in New York City to make access to benefits simpler for all New Yorkers. The Department of Social Services recently announced an upgrade to ACCESS HRA, the website and mobile application, which now provide clients with an online way to apply for SNAP, recertify for Cash Assistance, upload document images and check their balances. Local Law 60 of 2018, introduced by Council Member Ben Kallos, spurred the City to consider how data and technology can advance benefits access; Kallos himself has been supportive of the City’s efforts around technology and benefits. Previously, NYC Opportunity released Growing Up NYC and Generation NYC, easy to use directories of resources for young people and families, as well as the Benefits and Programs API, which provides standardized, plain language description of the benefits found on ACCESS NYC, making it easier for that information to appear on other websites. There are also a number of high profile campaigns to encourage uptake of existing resources, such as health insurance and the Earned Income Tax Credit, among others.
The Screening API is built with open source technology, underscoring the commitment of NYC Opportunity to creating and using nonproprietary digital tools that serve the public interest.
“The Benefits Screening API reflects the commitment of our office to harnessing technology and data to help address poverty-related challenges," said Matthew Klein, Executive Director of the Mayor's Office for Economic Opportunity. "All New Yorkers should know about and be able to access the benefits for which they are eligible, and by making the rules behind ACCESS NYC open and available we hope more organizations can integrate benefits screening into their work with residents.”
“Our goal is to promote health and well-being for New Yorkers in need, and technology can play an essential role in this. Helmsley supports this effort to enhance the City’s ability to make social services more accessible and efficient, enabling this crucial data to improve people’s lives.” said Tracy Perrizo of the Helmsley Charitable Trust.
"No one should go hungry in one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Anytime someone is sharing their income information with a non-profit community provider or even a for-profit they should get screened for more than 30 social service benefits whether food, money, health, or housing so they get all the help they need," said Council Member Ben Kallos, author of Local Law 60 of 2018, which required a study on providing Automatic Benefits. "Opening our benefits eligibility determinations to the public will enable public-private partnerships that will only help those in need and make our city a little fairer. Thank you to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Director of Operations Jeff Thamkittikasem, and Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity Director Matt Klein for their partnership in using technology to making New York City the fairest big city in the world."
Council Member Peter Koo, Chair of the Technology Committee, stated, “Creating user-friendly access to public service benefits across federal, state and city governments is an achievable goal that requires input and partnerships across all sectors of civil technology. Screening API reinforces the City of New York’s commitment to creating open sourced community-based technology that will improve the quality of life for the public in New York and beyond.”
For more information about the NYC Benefits Screening API, please see screeningapidocs.cityofnewyork.us.
The Mayor's Office for Economic Opportunity
The Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity) uses evidence and innovation to reduce poverty and increase equity. It advances research, data and design in the City’s program and policy development, service delivery, and budget decisions. NYC Opportunity’s work includes analyzing existing anti-poverty approaches, developing new interventions, facilitating the sharing of data across City agencies, and rigorously assessing the impact of key initiatives. NYC Opportunity manages a discrete fund and works collaboratively with City agencies to design, test and oversee new programs and digital products. It also produces research and analysis of poverty and social conditions, including its influential annual Poverty Measure, which provides a more accurate and comprehensive picture of poverty in New York City than the federal rate.