Minnesota posed a number of unique challenges towards efficient service delivery of public benefits. In addition to a fragmented application process, each of Minnesota's 87 counties maintained their own systems for managing assistance programs. Further issues stemmed from Minnesota's high levels of racial disparities, 11 tribal nations, and disproportionately large refugee population.
The team launched the pilot website in two counties under a ".org" url. Using feedback, the state expanded the website over 12 months to cover all counties and tribal nations under a ".gov" url. The new website is mobile-friendly, available in Spanish, and continuously tested for accessibility. Code for America also adopted the state's preferred programming language (Java) and internal organizational systems to foster ownership over the new system among state employees.
Project Outcomes and Impact
The MNbenefits website successfully reduced the application time for benefits programs from one hour to 12 minutes. By the middle of May 2021, more than 12,000 applications representing more than 25,000 people were submitted through the website. The team intends to expand the website to cover more assistance programs. The project was designed to be maintained by the Minnesota government team, which has hired people with design and product skillsets.
Adopting an iterative approach to implementing projects can help designers continuously improve their work and anticipate potential obstacles. This project also highlights opportunities for building trust with government agencies by maintaining flexibility to address new challenges and integrating existing agency staff into new processes.