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From Vision to Action: CalSAWS Advocates Group Strategic Plan

March 22, 2024

In October 2023, the last wave of counties migrated to the new statewide public benefits eligibility system – called CalSAWS (California Statewide Automated Welfare System) – unifying all of California’s 58 counties and completing a complex multiple-year statewide effort that began in 2018. This also means that no matter where you live in California, you can now apply for programs like CalFresh, Medi-Cal, and CalWORKs on the new BenefitsCal website.  

The end of the migration marked the beginning of a new chapter. In January, CAFB led a hybrid CalSAWS Advocates Visioning meeting to celebrate the accomplishments of the CalSAWS Advocates Group across the last six years, identify barriers that community-based organizations  (CBOs) and clients face in navigating BenefitsCal.com post-migration, and strategize on priorities for 2024.

Members of the CalSAWS Advocates Group, which CAFB established in 2018, with the leadership of public benefits and anti-hunger consultant Jenn Tracy, joined us in San Diego and Zoom for this hybrid meeting, including staff from food banks, Code for America, Community Based Organizations, institutions of higher education, and legal services organizations.

In addition to celebrating the successes of our collective advocacy, we created a strategic plan to support our mission of developing public benefits technology in a way that maximizes ease of use for program applicants and beneficiaries, community-based organizations, and eligibility workers while, at the same time, protecting user rights and promoting ongoing program improvement.

Specifically, the CalSAWS Advocates Group has five overarching goals for 2024:

  1. BenefitsCal Functionality for Consumers focuses on improving the functionality of BenefitsCal for individuals applying for or managing public benefits like CalFresh or Medi-Cal by addressing pain points that customers may encounter and prioritizing features that enhance user experience.
  2. BenefitsCal Functionality for CBOs aims to enhance BenefitsCal to better support community based organizations in assisting their customers with applying for and managing public benefits. Specifically, we are advocating for the Release of Information (ROI) launch for CBOs on BenefitsCal.
  3. Information Sharing and Communication within the Advocates Group emphasizes continuing improvements in communication and information sharing among members of the CalSAWS Advocates Group. This includes hosting regular meetings, managing a listserv, creating newsletters, and educating advocates on available resources.
  4. Data Metrics focuses on supporting public access to program and functionality data related to public benefits programs and the functionality of public-facing technologies. 
  5. CalSAWS Project Decision Making, and Transparency aims to maximize transparency and stakeholder engagement with the CalSAWS Project, which leads the development of public benefits technology on behalf of Counties and the State by facilitating public input and feedback on project decisions, ensuring that decision-making processes are transparent, and fostering collaboration among stakeholders.

We look forward to working towards achieving our goals in 2024 and beyond to help ensure Californians can access support for food, healthcare, and other basic needs. If you want to learn more and get involved in advocacy to support the implementation of BenefitsCal and CalSAWS, visit our CalSAWS & Advocates Group page.

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