NYC Opportunity and the Public Engagement Unit Partner for Facilitated Benefits Screening and Enrollment

Going Beyond the Screen for Integrated Benefits Outreach

NYC Opportunity
NYC Opportunity


A Public Engagement Unit Outreach Specialist in the field.

The Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity) has partnered with the Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit (PEU) to bring comprehensive and streamlined benefits screening and enrollment to New Yorkers. PEU proactively engages New Yorkers to connect them with key City services, such as tenant support and healthcare. Their Outreach Specialists connect with New Yorkers through data-driven door knocking and promote civic engagement through neighborhood events with community partners.

ACCESS NYC Eligibility Screener for PEU

Beginning with a phased rollout this month, PEU Outreach Specialists that currently focus on tenant support issues will additionally facilitate comprehensive benefits screening by utilizing the ACCESS NYC digital eligibility tool to help New Yorkers apply to critical poverty-alleviating programs. PEU Outreach Specialists, who are trained in community engagement tactics, are equipped with iPads that allow them to efficiently integrate the ACCESS NYC screening into their interactions with New Yorkers. PEU Outreach Specialists case manage New Yorkers through the enrollment process for dozens of City programs, maximizing the number of people who can benefit from important public services. Later this year, additional PEU teams that assist tenants with housing-related legal issues and facilitate enrollment in the NYC Department of Finance’s Rent Freeze programs will also integrate the expanded benefits screening into their outreach.

With PEU acting as a personal entry point, and ACCESS NYC acting as a digital entry point, more New Yorkers will receive assistance with applying for an array of additional benefits programs and support, bridging the enrollment divide. Starting late Summer of 2017, NYC Opportunity and PEU began designing, developing and testing a version of the ACCESS NYC benefits eligibility screener optimized for PEU Outreach Specialists.

The NYC Opportunity team shadowing the PEU Outreach Specialists.

The NYC Opportunity team conducted four rounds of design and prototyping, engaging PEU Outreach Specialists to receive feedback, test usability and validate design decisions throughout the process. Staff who worked with PEU include members of NYC Opportunity’s Product team and its Service Design Studio. The Studio is an in-house resource of professional designers who work on programs addressing poverty-related challenges, and was launched with support from founding partner Citi Community Development. The Product team consists of product managers, developers and analysts who prototype, develop and set ongoing strategy and roadmaps for digital tools used by the City.

NYC Opportunity team members review research insights and develop design hypotheses.

The optimized screener includes enhancements the team has made since the relaunch of ACCESS NYC in March of 2017, such as the capacity for New Yorkers to receive their eligibility results through a text message or email. Enhancements also took into account the fast-paced nature of in-person outreach and evolved to facilitate quick intake for PEU Outreach Specialists and their clients. This includes interactions happening outside of the computer screen, such as templates for paper referral cards that can be provided for New Yorkers without phones or computers, and the framework for PEU to be able to assist with a wide array of additional benefit programs.

PEU Outreach Specialist testing a prototype with a NYC Opportunity Design Apprentice.

The Product team will continue to work with the Public Engagement Unit on training, operationalization and refinement of this new product and service to inform future development of this technology before a wider rollout to additional benefits navigators across City agencies.

Please get in touch if your organization is interested in utilizing ACCESS NYC for benefits eligibility screening.