October 27, 2022

Schmidt Futures Announces U.S. Digital Response as Grantee of Expanded Benefits Access Initiative to Modernize the Social Safety Net

U.S. Digital Response joins twelve innovative teams to the Social Safety Net Product Studio grant to accelerate innovation and open access to over $100 million in safety net benefits for low-income families across the country

Schmidt Futures Announces U.S. Digital Response as Grantee of Expanded Benefits Access Initiative to Modernize the Social Safety Net

Oakland, CA October 27, 2022- U.S. Digital Response has been selected to join the Social Safety Net Product Studio, an initiative of Schmidt Futures, bringing technologist entrepreneurs together to improve the accessibility of U.S. government social safety net benefits. The program aims to spark innovation in benefits access programs and help unlock more than $100 million in benefits over the next two years for lower income families. As part of Schmidt Futures’ mission to bet early on talented individuals seeking to solve society’s hardest problems, the Product Studio will support twelve groups aiming to improve benefits access through product and tool development for scale.

Launched in partnership with Ballmer Group, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, the Product Studio is a $13 million initiative that brings together cross-sector stakeholders in the social safety net ecosystem to increase access to government benefits by developing state and federal policy recommendations. These twelve inaugural Product Studio teams will receive funding, technical assistance, and in-kind support to develop product innovations that will ease access to key government benefits for underprivileged populations, and the Digital Harbor Foundation will assist in managing the Product Studio. Winners include entrepreneurs, engineers, data scientists, designers, and researchers from across the country, with missions ranging from increasing online education access for people who are incarcerated to simplifying the application process for emergency rental assistance. 

“It’s no secret that our communities thrive when everyone’s needs are met, which is why our partners work to ensure economic benefits must be delivered at the speed of need. Joining the Social Safety Net Product Studio, along with the other talented teams, is an important opportunity to ensure that our communities are healthier and more resilient now and for the future,” Jessica Watson, Chief Experience Officer and Economic Stability Program Lead at U.S. Digital Response, said. “We’re honored that Schmidt Futures is entrusting U.S. Digital Response to amplify our work with government partners in creating a more equitable and efficient public benefits system,”

“We have been inspired by the ingenuity of the applicant pool, the awardees, and their government partners. They are tackling stubborn challenges with a renewed sense of urgency and optimism, driven by new, tech-forward solutions to enable greater access. We are thrilled to work alongside them, and support their efforts to make the safety net more efficient and effective for all who need it,” said Elizabeth Young McNally, Executive Vice President of Talent Ventures at Schmidt Futures.  

 Together, this group of talented experts will rise to the challenge of transforming access to U.S. government benefits for millions of families nationwide. This initiative will propel a community of highly skilled civic tech innovators working to drive positive change and increase access to benefits for families in need of support.

USDR’s efforts will deliver for communities in two key areas: 

Grants Modernization

USDR will scale and open source their federal funding-related tools that enable governments to unlock, measure results, and report on benefits for those most in need. Co-developed, tested, and in use with 8 states and 11 cities, these tools are easy to use, free, and adhere to federal requirements.

Unemployment Insurance

USDR will develop Spanish plain language translation tools and content guides to support federal and state unemployment insurance departments and increase equitable access to benefits for people with limited English proficiency. With language access as a top priority for the U.S. Department of Labor, USDR’s work will support states as they boost their plain language and translation efforts. This work will benefit people most vulnerable to unstable economic conditions and can serve as a model for improving language access for all public benefits.

Teams were selected based on their demonstrated success, technical innovation and ingenuity, scalability, and strength of their government partnerships. Successful implementation of these innovations - such as simplifying communication about benefits enrollment and renewal from government agencies - can help unlock more than $100 million in government benefits within the next three years for families in need.

 Schmidt Futures proudly introduces the inaugural Product Studio cohort:

  • Ameelio
  • Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project 
  • Beam (formerly Edquity)
  • Better Government Lab
  • DataKind and New America
  • Jump Credit
  • Medicaid Innovation Collaborative
  • National Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation
  • Nava
  • Semicolon Design Group
  • U.S. Digital Response (Grants Modernization)
  • U.S. Digital Response (Unemployment Insurance)


About Schmidt Futures:

Schmidt Futures bets early on exceptional people making the world better. Founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative that brings talented people together in networks to prove out their ideas and solve hard problems in science and society. To learn more about our method and the diverse types of capital and tools that we deploy, visit https://www.schmidtfutures.com

About U.S. Digital Response
U.S. Digital Response is a nonprofit, nonpartisan effort that helps governments and organizations respond quickly and efficiently to better serve the public in times of crisis. When public servants are faced with extraordinary tasks, USDR’s team of pro bono tech experts brings the “extra.” Founded in 2020, USDR connects governments and organizations with a surge of technology, resources, and support at critical moments, leaving them better equipped to deliver services and support to millions of people nationwide.
Visit www.USDigitalResponse.org to learn more.

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