ACCESS NYC, the City’s “front door” to public benefits for New Yorkers and a product in the portfolio of the NYC Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity) was recognized by the Center for Digital Government and received an award for Government Experience in the national category of “Project Experience” on September 24, 2020.
The awards recognize the achievements and best practices of states, cities, and counties that are radically improving the experience of government and pushing the boundaries of how citizen services are delivered.
“Our state and local government winners this year demonstrated that focusing on the government experience provides a foundation that played a vital role in responding and adapting to the uncertainties and disruptions of 2020,” said Dustin Haisler, chief innovation officer for the Center for Digital Government. “This year’s winners employed innovative methods and technologies to transform their government experiences, including leveraging citizen-centric platforms such as Mississippi’s myMS; employing AI to perform sentiment analysis on chatbots; and infusing digital services enterprise-wide for both internal and citizen-facing services.”
ACCESS NYC enables visitors to screen for, identify, and prepare to apply for a wealth of different Federal, State, and City benefits through a central website optimized for mobile devices.
Its features include:
- The Screener: a questionnaire that screens for potential eligibility for 30+ benefits
- Program Guides: comprehensive information, like key dates, considerations, required documentation, and methods for application for government benefits and services written in plain language and organized in a consistent and simple to act upon format
- Service Centers Map: government offices and community-based organizations that can provide assistance with application or services
- Information is web-accessible and language accessible: legible by people using assistive technologies like screen readers and available in 11 languages so that New Yorkers with limited English proficiency can access in their own language
Working across agencies with dozens of liaisons responsible for managing individual services, the lean ACCESS NYC team and its technology have helped hundreds of thousands of NYC households each year discover the relevant, critical programs that can advance their economic well-being.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in NYC, the ACCESS NYC team worked with its network of program administrators from different jurisdictions to provide vital information related to the City, State, and Federal government’s response to the pandemic and benefits and services updates. Because of the strong working relationships, process, and technology tools in place, the information was able to be disseminated rapidly to the public as the site saw a surge in demand with the numbers of visitors nearly tripling.
ACCESS NYC represents a new way for government to support residents with user-centered, iterative practices, and modern and non-proprietary technology. By using modern, inter-operable cloud technologies and open-source tools, the City is saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in licensing fees, and the product can be more easily maintained and responsive to policy and program changes.
The research and design process began in 2016, the initial version (1.0) was made available to the public in March 2017, and since then it has been expanded to include an open platform of resources.
The NYC Benefits Platform supports organizations that assist NYC residents discovering and navigating the multiple benefits they may be eligible for through 2 resources:
- The NYC Benefits and Programs Data Set: plain language, standardized public info for 80+ programs featured on ACCESS NYC, and other websites our office maintains.
- The NYC Benefits Screening API: Machine-readable calculations and criteria for benefits screening that power the ACCESS NYC screening questionnaire.
This enables NYC Opportunity to share and extend the value of ACCESS NYC well beyond a single website.