When people look for help from safety net programs, they are often at a low point. That the process for receiving legally mandated aid should so often be bewildering and, even more, humiliating, is a reality that I find personally wrenching—and that I believe should outrage us all.

This is part of why The Rockefeller Foundation has supported work to streamline data and technology systems for easier and more equitable access to the social safety net. The right assistance at the right time can help change a person’s life—but only if they can get it.

To be clear, the social safety net is not charity. It is a public commitment to our fellow residents and an investment in a thriving, just, and resilient society. Studies consistently show that safety net programs that help children flourish and adults succeed pay for themselves over the long run in more productive, happier, and safer lives and communities.

Done right, the social safety net saves money: a 2018 study found that childhood poverty alone cost the U.S. $1.03 trillion in 2015. The safety net can contribute directly to a post-pandemic economic recovery for working families and their communities, and a better world.

We started exploring this work in 2017 and fully dove in a year later. With over $60 billion being left on the table in the U.S. every year in unclaimed benefits, we believed some of the cumbersome bottlenecks could be overcome relatively quickly if data and technology were harnessed for the public good.

Read the full article about designing equitable tech by Kevin O'Neil at The Rockefeller Foundation.