U.S. Digital Response (USDR), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps governments and organizations respond quickly and efficiently to better serve the public in times of crisis, today announced that it is establishing its Economic Stability program thanks to a $6 million investment from Ballmer Group over the next three years.
With Ballmer Group’s support, the Economic Stability program at USDR will focus on scaling up and supporting a number of initiatives in areas such as Housing Access and Affordability, Grant Identification and Tracking, Small Business Support, and Unemployment Insurance (UI) Benefits Delivery. USDR will use the funds and its cross-functional team to:
- Serve as a partner and support hotline for agencies dealing with current, stretched systems who need rapid response assistance.
- Deliver end-to-end technical and user experience improvements, helping to solve immediate problems via incremental improvements and building capacity for more resilient, capable long-term infrastructure.
- Create and scale reusable offerings to make sure those who are eligible for economic security-related benefits receive them quickly and equitably, both now and in the future.
“We’re honored that our funders, partners, and community members trust us to work alongside them and help elevate what is possible in our delivery of public services,” said Jessica Cole, interim CEO of U.S. Digital Response. “We know that our communities are healthier and more resilient when people’s economic needs are met. That’s why U.S. Digital Response works together with our government partners to build more secure and equitable systems for the future and ensure that we get delivery right at the speed of need for those who need it most.”
This multi-year effort will build upon a variety of USDR’s established economic stability projects, including a unified Emergency Rental Assistance portal in Memphis that gained recognition from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In UI, the team partnered with nine states over the last twelve months to help governments meet a surge of demand, use user research to provide benefits more quickly, and support the rebuilding of end-to-end UI systems. Over the last six months, eight fellows from the Google.org Fellowship Program – a pro bono program that embeds Google employees full-time for up to six months with nonprofits and civic entities – joined USDR’s existing team members and volunteers to help seed the program by co-creating user-friendly tools with governments to deliver benefits programs.
“Government services and supports are critical and foundational to economic mobility, and the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that delivery of these services must be modernized, more efficient, and more accessible,” said Kevin Bromer, Executive Director, Head of Technology and Data Strategy at Ballmer Group. “USDR has been at the frontlines assisting state and local government agencies to better respond during this time of crisis, and we are excited that this grant will help them reach more states, communities, families, and individuals.”
As the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and prioritizes economic recovery efforts, governments must deliver urgently-needed, critical benefits to the American people at scale. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic led to record-breaking numbers of unemployment claims. While recovery efforts led to a short-term decline in unemployment claims, the strain on these systems exposes how the brittle underlying software and legacy practices will continue to cause challenges to Americans who are most in need of government support. While these systemic challenges impact all Americans, they disproportionately affect low-income people of color and those who are not native English speakers or who may have limited digital access or literacy. USDR focuses on removing systemic barriers in technology implementation while generating on-the-ground information for policymakers.
The Economic Stability Program is part of a portfolio within USDR designed to scale tools, approaches, and a vast network of expert technologists that can help adapt to the specific needs of any state or local government. Ballmer Group’s investment also seeds the launch of USDR’s Digital Service Program which will provide technical assistance for state and local Digital Service Teams, increasing their capacity for digital delivery and providing support to expand broadband access across the country. The Digital Service Network will be run in partnership with the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University.
Established in March 2020, USDR has gone on to partner with more than 230 government and nonprofit organizations in order to help deliver technical solutions for our country’s most pressing needs. Working on more than 300 projects that have impacted more than 42 million people across 37 states and territories, USDR has built a dedicated community of over 7,000 pro bono technologists who are ready to serve. In addition to its community of volunteers, USDR has expanded its team of dedicated staff members to more than 20 and is continuing to grow.
To see open staff positions at USDR, visit https://us-digital-response.breezy.hr/. To partner with USDR for local assistance, visit https://www.usdigitalresponse.org/governments/.