New York City recently launched a MyCity portal To help residents have better access to services and benefits.
Through the portal, users can check their eligibility, apply for services and benefits, and have the option to create an account to securely save their information and submitted documents for future applications. For government agencies, MyCity will serve as a central data repository enabling greater information sharing across government agencies, according to press release Announcing the launch of MyCity on March 29th.
Available in 10 of the most popular languages used by city dwellers, the portal connects to only one service so far: a childcare assistance voucher to help cover the cost of childcare at a qualified provider.
“We’ve identified challenges with residents who need benefits related to health and human services,” said Robbie Choi, deputy commissioner for strategic initiatives in the city’s Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI). “They don’t have the time to go in person to apply for the benefit or the time to fill out an often multi-page application form not in plain language.”
The MyCity approach merges a paper application used by the city’s Department of Education and Department of Children’s Services for vouchers into a single online form that is expected to serve tens of thousands of New Yorkers annually and significantly reduces the confusing and time-consuming elements of a paper application, according to city officials.
When you click on childcare [on the portal]”You are given the option to go through a screening, which is basically a series of questions to determine whether or not you qualify for this benefit,” Choi said. “If you know you already qualify, you can apply directly. Depending on your child’s age and family circumstances, it will direct the application to the appropriate agency and program group that will evaluate the application” and provide updates through the online portal and email notifications.
In addition to improving accessibility, Choi said she expects the portal to speed up the application and approval process. It takes seconds to submit an application digitally, while mailing in a paper form can take up to 14 days plus the time taken for the agency to review and any exchanges with the sender to ensure the information is accurate.
Using the portal, applicants can clearly see the statements and supporting documents they must share, and reviewing agencies can quickly see what is missing and find contact information to communicate about obtaining them. “It helps them keep track of the workflow a little bit better,” Choi said of city workers. “They hope to see this improve their workload and bandwidth.”
She added that agencies are working with community organizations to help residents feel comfortable using digital apps, but paper forms will still be available for those who prefer them.
About 5,000 parents, families, or caregivers apply for childcare vouchers each month, so you’d expect the portal to have a significant impact on the applicants’ experience. For now, though, the focus is on “making sure the system is stable, and performance is good,” Choi said, adding that the office tracks usage.
OTI’s internal applications team worked with Salesforce and several minority and women-owned businesses to build the first phase of MyCity. Choi added that many of the specially designed apps used by city agencies could integrate with the platform, and as more services are added, OTI will build tools that will make MyCity as flexible as possible.
More services will be available later this year. One will focus on helping New Yorkers access job training and employment, and the other will target businesses — helping them obtain permits, licensing, and pay fees, for example, digitally.
Another way the City plans to use the portal is to notify benefit recipients of their potential eligibility for other services.
“Getting out of COVID, we are [knew we] We have to find better ways to do this work from an electronic digital perspective.” “We have been looking for opportunities for services that can be digital, paper processes that can be made electronic,” she said. The city has also been looking for opportunities to streamline service delivery involving multiple agencies, she added. So a person does not have to go to multiple government offices in order to get services.
OTI’s Strategic Plan 2024 Laying out the MyCity framework, calling for a user-centric platform to “enable a single, service-driven, mobile-friendly internet portal for all City services and benefits” and integration with existing public-facing websites.
“The goal here with MyCity is really to set a new standard for the way we deliver government services, leverage technology and put the public that interacts with us at the center in terms of the way we think about design, the way we think about the process of interacting with the city,” Choi said.
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in Northern Virginia.