September 07, 2022
Public Benefits

Benefits Tech Advocacy Hub

Introducing our collaborative hub for fighting harmful benefits tech

Upturn, Legal Aid of Arkansas, and the National Health Law Program

We are pleased to introduce the Benefits Tech Advocacy Hub, a new website created by Upturn, Legal Aid of Arkansas, and the National Health Law Program. 

We launched the Benefits Tech Advocacy Hub to give advocates tools to fight harmful benefits tech and force greater transparency so that harm can be identified, prevented, or reduced earlier in the technology’s lifecycle. We are advocates and technologists experienced in fighting the unjust use of technology in public benefits. We’ve collaborated with advocates and beneficiaries to prevent bad algorithms from going into effect (see ourMissouri case study), stop their use (see ourArkansas case study), and get errors fixed faster (see ourSocial Security case study). We’re also helping shape policy discussions and researching and tracking benefits tech systems in use across the country. We’ve done much of this work in collaboration with legal services organizations, and we want our community to grow. In particular, we want to build more partnerships with organizations fighting for better social welfare programs.

People who rely on public benefits and their advocates often only become aware of the technology states are using to administer benefits once it is already harming people with widespread cuts and denials. By engaging earlier and more aggressively in the lifecycle of benefits technology, we can create more opportunities to push back on these systems and their operational policies, reducing their harms. At the end of the day, public benefits programs can only support people if the benefits are accessible and available when needed. Technology, at its best, can improve access. But technology cannot fix underfunded benefit programs. And, too often, benefit technologies reinforce or worsen long-standing inequities built around ideas of who deserves support rooted in racism, patriarchy, classism, and ableism.

Ultimately, we seek to convene advocates, technologists, academics, beneficiaries, and others to co-create new strategies and demands for more robust formal and informal accountability mechanisms throughout the entire lifecycle of benefits technology. And we hope to move towards a world in which everyone has resources and care to meet their needs.

We envision a world in which everyone can access the resources and care that they need when they need it. We also recognize that technology can make it easier and faster to apply for benefits. With this project, we hope to make it easier to recognize when fixing technology is a useful focus for advocacy and when it is just a distraction from the underlying policies.

This project was developed by Kevin De Liban (Legal Aid of Arkansas); Elizabeth Edwards and David Machledt (National Health Law Program); Emily Paul, Emma Weil, and Aaron Rieke, with support from Fiona Dale (Upturn). 

Check out the Benefits Tech Advocacy Hub here:

Upturn Authors