WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Approximately one in six Americans do not have enough money for food or other essential needs and they often miss out on income-based government benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/Food Stamps or free mobile phone service. To make it easier for Americans to determine eligibility and apply for these benefits, Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq: INTU), through a collaboration with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, is releasing to the Federal Government its Benefit Assist software as free, open source code on GitHub with a demonstration. Now anyone, whether state government, non-profit or a developer, can freely use, share and improve upon Benefit Assist to help Americans find and use these valuable benefits.
States will be able to save money using Benefit Assist to collectively build and improve on the software to reduce overhead, potentially saving our nation billions.
“Helping Americans in need can be as simple as using the tax information government already has to provide the benefits to lift them out of poverty. As open source code, Intuit’s Benefit Assist will now be available to help every American,” said New York City Council Member Ben Kallos. “Intuit has gifted this nation a new tool to help those in need and HHS will be getting it out there to those who need it most.”
Intuit launched Benefit Assist in 2015, offering 30 million Americans who file taxes with TurboTax an opportunity to determine if they are eligible for government benefits such as SNAP. In 2016, Benefit Assist was expanded to include Federal Communications Commissions’ Lifeline program, which offers discounts on phone service and soon will also offer discounts on broadband service.
“Intuit is committed to improving the financial lives of every American. We created Benefit Assist as one way to advance economic empowerment and inclusion – helping people find and use the benefits available to them,” said Bernie McKay, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs at Intuit. “It’s a privilege to share Benefit Assist with state governments, non-profits and other companies that are equally passionate and committed to want to improving the financial lives of millions.”
The Federal Government has already laid the groundwork to streamline access to nutrition, home energy, cash assistance, and other human service benefits necessary to stay healthy by integrating eligibility and enrollment with Medicaid and CHIP at the state-level through the Affordable Care Act and other executive-branch actions. Enhanced federal funding is available through 2018 for each state to integrate, interoperate, and improve the delivery of federally assisted benefits to their residents by leveraging information sharing across health and human service agencies to automatically recertify or provide benefits.
To expand access to government human service benefits and in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s State Health Reform Assistance Network, CMS and the HHS Idea Lab have developed a free and open source tool that states can use to facilitate Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) eligibility determination for Medicaid and CHIP called “MAGI in the Cloud,” freely available on GitHub. The free and open source code is now operated and maintained by the New England State Consortium Systems Organization (NESCO) and in use by the District of Columbia, New Jersey, North Dakota and Tennessee. The Benefit Assist tool’s source code will be freely available at https://github.com/CMSgov/BenefitAssist with a demonstration available at http://benefitassist.info.
New York City Council Member Ben Kallos has introduced “automatic benefits” legislation, slated for a winter hearing in the Committee on General Welfare. The legislation, as amended, requires city agencies to notify residents applying for or receiving any human services benefits about all the human service benefits for which they qualify automatically with applications or renewals pre-filled using information the municipal government already has to reduce bureaucracy and improve access. Following introduction Kallos collaborated on a memorandum “Automatic Benefits: Using Government Data to Deliver Better Citizen Services for Less,” with Governance Lab at New York University, Stewards of Change, and Robin Hood Foundation to summarize legal and regulatory frameworks for moving forward. The release of the “Benefit Assist” coding tool developed by Intuit’s TurboTax as free and open source provides necessary technology infrastructure to build upon for providing human service benefits using tax information.
“Fewer barriers, greater outreach, and creative solutions – those have been the principles driving our reform at the city level," said Council Member Stephen Levin, Chair of the General Welfare Committee. "This bill hits all three marks. We are better situated than ever before to take advantage of technology to make sure individuals get the resources they need. Staff resources are better spent directly improving the lives of those less fortunate, not navigating a labyrinth of federal, state, and local programs. I applaud this initiative, and look forward to future public-private collaborations that ensure no one is left behind.”
“We can restore faith in a government that works by providing the benefits people need more easily and efficiency. Building the technology infrastructure and releasing it freely to the public and private sectors so that they can make 'automatic benefits' a reality will help to reduce both hunger and poverty in practice,” said Beth Simone Noveck, former Director of the White House Open Government Initiative and Co-Founder of the Governance Lab (GovLab) at New York University (NYU).
“Technologies like Automatic Benefits and Benefit Assist hit the bull's-eye for improving information sharing across health and human service programs. These are goals that organizations have been struggling to accomplish for decades. This approach highlights the innovative drive which is at the core of national and local efforts to reduce the complexity of applying for benefits by the most at risk populations when they are needed most. Tools like these can be adopted and used across program silos and jurisdictional boundaries to provide holistic, person-centric care at reduced cost,” said Daniel Stein, co-founder of Stewards of Change.
About Intuit Inc.
Intuit Inc. creates business and financial management solutions that simplify the business of life for small businesses, consumers and accounting professionals.
Its flagship products and services include QuickBooks® and TurboTax®, which make it easier to manage small businesses and tax preparation and filing. Mint provides a fresh, easy and intelligent way for people to manage their money, while Intuit's ProConnect brand portfolio includes ProConnect Online, ProSeries® and Lacerte®, the company's leading tax preparation offerings for professional accountants.
Founded in 1983, Intuit had revenue of $4.7 billion in its fiscal year 2016. The company has approximately 7,900 employees with major offices in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, India, Australia and other locations. More information can be found at www.intuit.com.