Posts

Fresh EBT – A Free, Easy to Use Smartphone App to Help SNAP Participants Save Money

Stacy Taylor | Head of Partnerships and Policy | Propel

Fresh EBT is a free smartphone app that allows users to check their SNAP (food stamps)/EBT balance and suggests relevant services to improve financial health, ranging from grocery stores to museum discounts to jobs. It is one of the most popular government services apps, used by over 2 million SNAP participants every month. Fresh EBT is used in 50 states and every US territory, can can be downloaded and used for free at www.freshebt.com.

Why Fresh EBT?

We launched Fresh EBT for a simple reason: checking the balance of an EBT card can be shockingly difficult.

“Please help us who have 4 kids and a busy life and can’t spend 10-20 mins on the phone calling to check only balance.” –Yevette R.

Prior to Fresh EBT, cardholders had to check their SNAP/cash balance by calling a phone hotline. Mothers told us stories of navigating a complex phone hotline while juggling kids at the grocery store; we spoke to people with pockets full of old grocery receipts used to track their balance; we learned about the shame of having a transaction declined because of insufficient EBT funds. We thought there must be a better answer.

“Instead of entering a million numbers over the course of your time…you just open an app and there is all the info you need about your personal card and so many more helpful tools. Plus its a lot less embarrassing to quietly check my app versus having to make a call. Our life is hard. This makes one aspect of it easy for all my family to use and understand! My family uses it to quietly check our balance often at check out or when our phone service is not able to be paid for awhile.” -Ann

Fresh EBT enables balance checking and transaction history within a mobile app, similar to a mobile banking app you’d get from a consumer bank. Fresh EBT enables EBT cardholders in all US states and territories to see their balance and transaction history, instantly, securely, and for free. A recent Harvard Business School study found that Fresh EBT users are better able to budget their benefits throughout the month, which results in one fewer day of extreme hunger each month.

In addition to balance checking, Fresh EBT introduces users to other ways that they can improve their financial health, including grocery store coupons, a map of EBT-authorized farmer’s markets, low-cost recipes, and employment opportunities. SNAP participants have clipped over $20 million dollars in coupons and submitted over 75,000 job applicants through Fresh EBT. The combination of these services helps improve financial health by both stretching existing dollars and increasing overall savings.

“Fresh EBT has made my situation better by making at least one part of our financial crisis easier. The fact that I can have all of this information in one simple app makes me feel better. There is no frustration. I can get coupons, see my budget and do all of this quickly. Again, it’s frustrating to call all the time to get my balance. I have 4 children and life is complicated. Please just make my life a little bit easier.” -Jill S.

“I love it. Its an all in 1 balance, planner, prep, it helps you learn and utilize your EBT Benefits the best healthiest way with your budget…I’d be lost without it.” -Melissa V.

Fresh EBT partners with states, counties, and non profit organizations to share this service with SNAP participants. If you would like to share Fresh EBT posters are available to download here (and in Spanish). A video is available here. Please contact us at info@joinpropel.org with questions or to learn more.

Fresh EBT is free and always will be free for SNAP participants. How do we provide services for free? We connect EBT participants to money-saving and income-generating opportunities. Some content partners pay for these services. Whether paid or unpaid, we all vet partners. We select partners who provide tangible positive value to SNAP participants, who can help us responsibly and intentionally provide SNAP participants with tools to improve their financial health. Read more about how we select partners here. Propel, Inc., the makers of Fresh EBT, was originally founded in 2014 through Blue Ridge Labs, a program now run by the Robin Hood Foundation.

Stacy McLoughlin Taylor is the Head of Policy and Partnerships at Propel, Inc. Prior to joining Propel she worked in the non-profit and advocacy community on access to quality financial services, access to government benefits, and elevating client voice to inform program and policy design.

 

Public Charge Rule Letter

Michael Dedmon | Policy Manager | The Financial Clinic

 

Samantha Deshommes

Chief, Regulatory Coordination Division

Office of Policy and Srategy

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Department of Homeland Security

20 Massachusetts Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20529-2140

 

10 December 2018

Re: DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012 Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds

 

Dear Chief Samatha Deshommes,

 

First, I want to say that I appreciate this opportunity, on behalf of my organization, to comment on the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANRP) regarding changes to the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds. My name is Michael Dedmon, and I am the Policy Manager at the Financial Clinic, a New York City-based non-profit organization that fights financial insecurity  in low-to-moderate income communities through delivering direct services, capacity building for other nonprofits, and supporting systems level solutions and innovation. The Clinic and our partners are privileged to serve thousands of individuals from over 40 states who are themselves immigrants to the United States, and thousands more who count immigrants among their family, friends, and neighbors.

Many of these people have lived in our country before and been a vital part of our society for years, and with the proposed rule changes would face the prospect of being denied legal permanent residence or green card status as a result of their receiving support through programs like SNAP or Section 8 Housing Assistance. The suggestion that immigrant members of our communities are less deserving of obtaining permanent residence in the United States because they have received these supports is misguided, discriminatory, and cruel. In the strongest terms, I urge the Department of Homeland Security to withdraw the proposed “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” rule CIS No. 2499-10, DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012.

The Financial Clinic has had the privilege of serving financially insecure low-and-moderate income communities in New York City since 2005. During that time we and our national partners have provided one-on-one financial coaching to over 48,000 individuals, many of them immigrants to this country, assisting them with identifying personal financial goals, creating a budget, accessing banking services or credit, and filing their taxes. Everyday our financial coaches see the challenges our customers face in building fulfilling and financially secure lives; challenges that are often only slightly, if meaningfully, mitigated on the support of public benefit programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and Section 8 housing assistance. Our experience serving our customers shows us that these programs give low-income families a necessary foundation on which to build financial capability, and rely on the support of federal and state programs for essential healthcare, nutrition, and shelter. Many of these beneficiaries are children or elderly. The proposed rule would force millions of individuals and families to choose between building the foundation for a better life, more financial security, and future success and gaining permanent legal residence. We should all see the cruelty in forcing our friends and neighbors to make this choice just because they are immigrants.

The nature of this false choice also makes it impossible to ignore its racial dimension. Because this rule targets elements of the family-based immigration system, it will certainly have a disproportionate impact on people of color by forcing them to forgo health and nutrition for themselves and their children. Taking into account resilience on such a wide set of public support programs for permanent residency, applications will necessarily reduce the diversity of immigrants entering and remaining in the United States, reshaping our country’s demographics for generations. The language used by the current administration lays bare the radicalized motivation of these proposed rule changes, and should cause all of us to be weary of their intent.

Immigrants do not take from this country, they enrich it. The proposed rule change is part of a larger agenda aimed at radically changing our legal immigration system with the goal of redefining who deserves to be an American and further stigmatizing reliance on any public benefit programs. The proposal sends the message to the world that the United States does not value our immigrant neighbors who work hard to build their lives here, relying on the same system of support that natural born citizens use every day. This message not only demeans members of our communities, but it will also certainly discourage others from immigrating and adding their talents to our society in fear that they may fall on hard times. The Financial Clinic firmly believes that when immigrants are harmed, we are all harmed. We cannot support this harmful rule change.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Michael Dedmon, Policy Manager

The Financial Clinic

 

 

 

The Clinic’s Journey to Creating Lasting Change

By Michael Dedmon | Policy Manager

Since our founding in 2005, The Financial Clinic has put nearly $80 million back in the pockets of more than 48,000 customers. Over the years, we have grown from an organization focused on serving the working people of New York City to one that partners with over 460 organizations across 42 states to build the financial capability of low- to moderate-income Americans. Our capacity building work and our national financial security ecosystems give us the privilege of working with diverse communities from coast to coast, further informing our perspectives on the challenges that working people in this country face every day

As the scope of our work has expanded, our ambition to achieve our vision of a financially secure nation has grown as well. We are excited to announce that later this summer The Financial Clinic will – for the first time – release a national policy agenda that will guide our advocacy efforts in the coming years.

The Clinic will focus on a set of national policy priorities we believe best represent the opportunities to make a long-term impact in the lives of the people we serve, wherever we or our partners serve them. These efforts are continually guided by our core principles. The first is the belief that our customers are experts in their own lives and that – better than anyone – they know the challenges they face and the resources they need to address them. The organizations and communities we partner with hold vital knowledge and our goal is to combine this experience with data and powerful stories collected directly from our customers through our financial coaching platform, Change Machine, to ensure they remain at the center of our policy and advocacy efforts. Second, we know that fulfilling our vision of building a financially secure America requires addressing historic racial and gender inequities in economic opportunity created and sustained by our political institutions and public policies. Our advocacy will elevate the knowledge and capabilities of our partners and customers to support policies that remove systemic barriers, empowering minority communities to build lasting financial security.

The powerful combination of data we collect through Change Machine, the knowledge and expertise of our partners across the nation, and the lived experiences of our customers have reinforced our belief that many of the most significant barriers low- to moderate-income people face when attempting to build financial security are the result of systems and institutions that make it impossible to get ahead. Empowering individuals with the information and the skills they need is too often not enough; policies at the local, state, and national level can exacerbate the hardship families experience every day.

For this reason, the Clinic leverages our standing in the financial security field, our partnerships, and our unique customer data to develop and advocate for new policies that will create lasting change. In 2016, we partnered with the Citizens Committee for the Children of New York (CCCNY) and the New York Asset Development Coalition to pass the Refund529 bill. This legislation allows New York State tax filers to split their state refund and deposit a portion directly into a 529 college savings account. This new opportunity for tax time savings makes it easier for low- to moderate- income New Yorkers to invest in themselves and their families, access assets that build wealth, and give their children the necessary resources to attend and graduate college.

Our goal is to now apply the lessons learned from this successful campaign to a range of issue areas that will expand opportunity for working people across the country. We look forward to expanding this dimension of the Clinic’s work and joining with our customers and partners to advocate for policy changes that build a more financially secure America.