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Family Finances

Stress Test: People, Technology, and the Safety Net In Response To Covid-19

Event Recap


The economic damage of COVID-19 has led millions of Americans to seek assistance from the safety net, which has exposed both the existing flaws in the public benefits system and the new challenges in serving a massive influx of people. What is it like to navigate this crush as both applicant and service provider? What are we learning about technology and policy that will help us rebuild a benefits system for this moment and the rest of the 21st Century?

The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program, along with experts working on the design and delivery of safety net services, engaged in a robust conversation about the system we have and the system we should be designing. Viewers will walk away with:

  • An overview the types of benefits that comprise the “safety net”– and whether or not they serve the real financial needs of the people that need it.
  • A window into the strengths and vulnerabilities of the technology we use to deliver public benefits.
  • An understanding of the role users can play in generating evidence for policymakers.
  • Policy reform ideas driven by data and user insights.

Join us for the rest of our events in the series, and be sure to sign up to receive the latest news and updates from Aspen FSP.

The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program’s work on the safety net is part of its commitment to the Aspen Partnership for Inclusive Economy (APIE), an initiative made possible by anchor funding from the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.

What you Need to Know

Code for America’s COVID-19 Response

mRelief’s COVID-19 Response

Why Aspen Institute FSP is Focusing on Household Centric Benefits

COVID-19’s Impact on the Social Safety Net (Code for America)

Benefits Access in a Pandemic: Helping People From the Safety of Their Homes (Benefits Data Trust)

What Are the Obstacles to SNAP Delivery? (mRelief)

Featured Speakers

Rose Afriyie
Executive Director & Cofounder, mRelief,

Rose Afriyie grew up in the Bronx, where she saw the importance of food stamps, earned a master’s in public policy at University of Michigan. She got into technology because she believes writing software is a superpower that people of color and women should have exposure to and mRelief’s tech unlocks food benefits for families so they can spend less money on food and more money on realizing other economic opportunity. She is continuing the tradition of Johnnie Tillmon and other Welfare Warriors advocating for families to access food with dignity.

Justin King
Associate Director, the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program,

Justin King is an Associate Director of the Aspen Institute’s Financial Security Program. Previously, Mr. King was Policy Director of the Family-Centered Social Policy program at New America. He has spent much of his career working to develop and advance innovative public policies that expand economic opportunity by better supporting the financial needs and desires of striving Americans. He spent more than 12 years developing policy, managing partnerships, and overseeing public communication and education at New America. Prior to working in the social sector, Mr. King spent over six years as a legislative assistant to former U.S. Senator James Jeffords (I-VT), working extensively on both the Senate Finance and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees. He was responsible for a wide range of issues affecting children and low-income Americans, including Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant, TANF reauthorization, child welfare, adoption, foster care, disability rights, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. His writing and commentary have appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Slate, Vox, Pacific Standard, and Washington Monthly. He is a graduate of St. Lawrence University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in government.

Lou Moore
Interim co-CEO and CTO, Code for America,

Lou Moore is the interim co-CEO and Chief Technology Officer at Code for America. Lou most recently served as VP of Software at Jawbone where he led software development from applications to infrastructure, and focused on delivering products that helped people to live happier, healthier, and longer.  He got his start building high-performance technical teams and effective consumer products at scale while serving as Director of Product Engineering at social networking destination hi5. Lou hails from Wisconsin originally and holds a degree in Computer Engineering from Northwestern University. He is a member of CTOs For Good.

Trooper Sanders 
Chief Executive Officer, Benefits Data Trust,

A Detroit native, Trooper has more than 20 years of experience working at the crossroads of business, government, and the nonprofit sector. He currently serves as Chief Executive Officer at Benefits Data Trust, a national nonprofit that helps people live healthier, more independent lives by creating smarter ways to access essential benefits and services. Prior to joining BDT, Trooper was a social impact and policy advisor to financial technology startups, business leaders, and philanthropic initiatives. At the Clinton Foundation, Trooper helped create the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint venture with the American Heart Association to reduce obesity in the U.S. Trooper also held White House policy staff positions during two separate administrations. He most recently served as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, carrying out a project to identify opportunities to ensure that artificial intelligence improves social and economic equity. Trooper is a graduate of the University of Michigan and holds a Master of Science degree from the London School of Economics and a Master of Laws from the University of London.

Learn more

This event is part of the Conversations in Financial Security in Response to COVID-19: How to Triage, Recover, and Stabilize series, an ongoing digital event series hosted by the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program that works to triage the immediate effects of the current pandemic, design solutions allowing households to recover, and address the structural challenges to stabilize financial security at the household level.

Event information
Wed Apr 29, 2020
1:00pm - 2:00pm EDT