Online Safety Net Tools And Applications

Technology and the widespread use of the Internet have led to more and more safety net programs being placed online. This website has made a concerted effort over the years to make those applications easier to find. However, knowing where to go for government benefits or to a nonprofit’s office can be a hit or miss operation. This article hopes to highlight a number of public benefit websites, online applications and a few software programs known as pre-screening tools. Links to them can be found on this site’s community resource page or site map under the title of Public Benefits Corner.

Benefits.gov is the official benefits website of the U.S. government. Introduced in 2002, it offers online access to information provided by seventeen federal agencies. Users can browse information by category, state or federal agency. New Jersey residents can discover information on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly known as food stamps), medicaid program, unemployment insurance, Head Start, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), WIC, Weatherization Assistance Program and more.

Social Security’s Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool, according to their site, “helps you find out if you could get benefits that Social Security administers. Based on your answers to questions, this tool will list benefits for which you might be eligible and tell you more information about how to qualify and apply.” BEST is not an application for benefits. It will screen for the following benefits: Medicare, Social Security Disability, Social Security Retirement, Social Security Survivors, Special Veterans and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Pre-Screening Eligibility Tool can be used to determine if you may be eligible to receive SNAP benefits. Buttons on the site explain how to use the tool as well as a basic Internet tutorial. The site is maintained by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

This is the first in a series of articles on New Jersey websites with safety net applications and pre-screening tools. The Public Benefits Corner here has links to eighteen such sites.

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About Michael Swayze

Former county welfare agency administrator, using a combination of social work and computer skills to share information about community resources via the Internet. Online since 1995.
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