An Amazon for social services

Single Stop, known for helping low-income community college students access benefits, is designing software to help people find aid online. That will include student grants and loans, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps and food pantries, reports Co.Exist.

Single Stop will continue to provide in-person counseling, but expects some users will be able to access help on their own.

“There are many resources are out there, but one of the biggest problems is a lack of coordination, information, and access,” says Elisabeth Mason, chief executive of Single Stop. She compares the software platform to a one-stop shopping resource like Amazon, where visitors can put all the items they want in a virtual shopping cart and check out at the end. Single Stop is also leveraging lessons learned from the advertising industry about how to predict what people will want when they visit the site, the same way that Target can figure out whether a given customer is pregnant.

The pilot will focus on clients looking for college aid and other social services. In New York, Single Stop may also target veterans and clients seeking child care and preschool help.

Clients are asked a short series of questions (family income, ZIP code, etc.), mention the types benefits they’re interested in, and are instantly given an estimate of what they’re eligible to receive each year–say, $3,000 for health insurance, $6,100 in federal and state aid for college tuition, and so on.

. . . Like Amazon, the site offers other recommendations for services based on what similar clients are interested in (i.e If you need help with food, maybe you’d also be interested in unemployment insurance).

Single Stop may add video chats for clients who need more assistance.

Community colleges have partnered with the national nonprofit to open on-campus offices. When low-income students access benefits, they’re more likely to stay in school.