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Financial Literacy App Aims to Help New Yorkers Find Benefits

By Camille Bautista | January 12, 2017 4:00pm
 Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams partnered with Benefit Kitchen, an app that helps New Yorkers learn about their eligibility for public benefits. Bed-Stuy resident Shadia Barneys (right), said she found she could save up to $100 a month after using the app.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams partnered with Benefit Kitchen, an app that helps New Yorkers learn about their eligibility for public benefits. Bed-Stuy resident Shadia Barneys (right), said she found she could save up to $100 a month after using the app.
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DNAinfo/Camille Bautista

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A new app is looking to put dollars back in the hands of New Yorkers by helping users learn about their eligibility for public benefits.

Brooklyn-based company Benefit Kitchen kicked off its partnership with Bedford-Stuyvesant food pantry St. John’s Bread & Life this month to help the nonprofit’s clients connect to “a path out of poverty,” according to the app’s founders.

Through the financial literacy tool, users can learn about their eligibility and dollar amounts for up to 18 federal, state and local benefits with programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants and Children (WIC), or ways to save on utility bills.

“It’s an app for those in need, an app for those in economically challenging situations,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said Thursday.

Adams’ office has also partnered with Benefit Kitchen to reach out to local organizations and provide funding for training to reach Brooklynites with the free service. 

Groups like St. John’s Bread & Life will be able to utilize the application to tell patrons what resources are available to them.

In 2016, the nonprofit brought almost $4 million back to the neighborhood through public assistance, with dollars spent at local bodegas, markets and more, according to executive director Anthony Butler.

“The benefits are there and people are not getting access to those benefits — and the reality is, they don’t know how,” Adams added.

“It’s a universal, holistic approach to solving the problem and not putting on a Band-Aid, but healing the problem from its total place of what people need. It’s a one-stop shop,” he said of Benefit Kitchen.

After answering a series of questions about incomes, bill costs and household budgets, users are able to see their eligibility.

The data requested is non-invasive, founders Daniel Beeby and Melanie Lavelle said, and the app won’t ask for names or addresses.

“We built Benefit Kitchen not to just show you which benefits, but to answer these tougher questions: if I get a raise will I still get health insurance? Where can I get my taxes done for free?” Lavelle added.

The app, which is also available to use on desktops, offers users with information on how to apply for health insurance and other programs.

Bed-Stuy resident Erica Chapelle said the app saved her the hassle of figuring out the programs on her own.

“You don’t have to call people trying to get workers on the phone, go into these centers and sit there for a long period of time, get tons of paperwork you’re trying to read, it’s less of a headache,” she said, adding that she discovered she was eligible for WIC and childcare.

Benefit Kitchen’s founders are working to expand partnerships with local organizations to reach clients and users can download the app for free.