Mayor Edwin M. Lee today launched Promptly, the first application in the country created to send text message notifications for human services clients. Developed by a Code for America Fellow at City Hall this year, Promptly provides clear and concise text messages delivered directly to San Francisco Human Services Agency (HSA) clients that allows them to quickly take action to preserve their benefits.
“Our City strives for strong, healthy communities that can participate in a prosperous economy, and Promptly helps us achieve this by enabling beneficiaries of programs like CalFresh to keep food on the table for their families,” said Mayor Lee. “I am impressed with the partnership with Code for America that uses innovation to help some of our most vulnerable residents.”
The application was built by Code for America Fellows in collaboration with the San Francisco Human Services Agency (HSA) and the Mayor’s Office. Promptly is first rolling out with CalFresh clients and then will continue on to other programs. When benefits for a client change or need to be renewed, they are currently mailed a notice of this change. However, these paper notices may be missed for a number of reasons – meaning a client’s benefits could expire without their knowledge until an inopportune time, like when checking out at the grocery store. Once this happens, reinstating benefits after a lapse can be frustrating and time consuming for the client. Text messages, delivered in addition to the mailed notices, reduce the likelihood of these lapses.
“The Human Services Agency mission is to promote well-being and self-sufficiency among individuals, families and communities in San Francisco,” said HSA Executive Director Trent Rhorer. “We must constantly improve ways for our residents to access our benefits and remain enrolled to receive the services they need. Promptly is a huge step forward towards doing just that.”
So far, 700 users have already signed up to receive text messages. In early piloting of the program, HSA has texted around 100 clients with a 50 percent response rate—a far greater response rate than traditional mailers or email. With more than 90 percent of the U.S. population having access to short message system (SMS) or text message capabilities on their cell phones, Promptly stands to make a big impact as more individuals enroll. Text messages from Promptly are translated into six languages.
“We are excited to let HSA clients know about Promptly. Both HSA and our team believe that text messaging is a quick and easy way to reach people who are in danger of not receiving necessary benefits. If clients receive a text message that enables them to stay on benefits – that’s food that a client has for the next six months,” said Andy Hull, a Code for America Fellow. “This project was a true collaboration between Code for America and the City of San Francisco, and we’re looking forward to expanding Promptly to every HSA client in San Francisco.”