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Interview: Code for America

Code for America is an organization that helps people with various problems through technology. Today I interviewed someone who works with Code for America and got to learn about what they do to help! Watch the interview below:

If you would prefer the written version, it is down below:

What does your organization do to help?

Code for America is an organization that works with governments, state governments, but also federal governments to build software and technology to help people get benefits they wouldn't get otherwise.

Do you know how your organization got started?

In the last big recession, people got together and said, this is a big problem, lots of people are losing their jobs, so what can we do? We had a lot of people who knew about computers and tech around here, so in 2010, they founded the organization Code for America. But what the original idea was, that they would find people who knew about tech, and send them into the government to work there for a year, but that didn't work out so well, so now we are this! We collaborate with the government instead. Were much bigger than we used to be.

What populations does your organization help?

"we usually work with people who have low incomes, because we are trying to help access benefits that the government gives out to people when they are in need." So for example, food stamps.

What Food stamps involves if you don't earn a lot of money because you are unemployed or you can't work, you can fill out and application and if you met the criteria the government will send you money every month to buy food. But the problem is, applying is very difficult.

Most people that need it, have lots of trouble proving that they need it. So that's where we come in, we have made an application that makes it so much easier, so people are able to get those types of help.

What do you think are the most impactful things your organization does to help people?

"One big thing I was talking about before was the food stamps" It is a program that almost everyone can get, you can apply and get the money. But the problem is its not a lot of money, which is a little hard because you have to wait a month until you get the money again.

So something we do to help is actually with taxes. every year, most people have to file their taxes, but actually you only have to file your taxes if you make more than a certain amount of money, so what most people do when they don't qualify, is they don't do it.

They think its to hard and complicated, theirs not really a point.

But what many people don't know, is that when you file your taxes, you can actually GET something from it. So when we help with the taxes, we help them get lots of benefits back.

What challenges does your organization face in order to make change?

One big challenge is that we live in a country where we have to work out our differences by politics, and its hard to make change in a world when lots of people don't want what would help others. So there is a political challenge, where we have to change lots of people's minds who are in power. when we work with government, that's a challenge that is really difficult because of lots of people who disagree. Another challenge is our organization needs money to fund what we do, and so we have to go to people who have LOTS of money and beg for money so that they will fund our work. And one day, people may change their minds, and not fund us anymore.

In your opinion, how do you think kids can help social justice issues?

one of the most important things I think is educating others. "I think kids can change grown ups mind much easier" I think the best thing kids can do is to educate themselves about the issue and then publicize it and spread awareness. Without educating yourself, you can't spread awareness and change things happening in the world.

How do you think government programs need to change or evolve to help homeless more?

"The problem with government programs is that programs do not take peoples situations into account" They don't meet people where they are, they make them answer tough questions even wen its clear their struggling a lot. I think that government programs should be easier especially for homelessness. "The requirements are too big" I also think that the main response for homelessness is to just: give them housing! But that isn't always the thing that will help them. They may need income, resources, Food security, or medical help.

How can technology be used as a tool to help solve homelessness?

There are many ways, but one easy thing is if you want money for food from the government, you go to them and the application takes almost an hour! But we have an app that takes 10 minutes. I think that technology could be used to hep take down barriers and make things easier in some ways.

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