Play: Target outreach to individuals applying for unemployment compensation

In this play:

This play was written by Benefits Data Trust, one of the partners in the Social Tech Collaborative

Over 40 million people filed for unemployment benefits between mid-March and late May – the equivalent of one out of every four American workers. In the short run, Unemployment Compensation (UC), including the expansions in the CARES Act, will provide a cushion for many people. But this help is time-limited and as people exhaust their UC, the newly unemployed will need to be connected to other benefits including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), WIC, health insurance, and other benefits programs that are administered by multiple state agencies.

Millions will be unemployed for the first time and will need help with the basics. Most people won’t know, for example, that they need to apply for UC in one place and apply for food or health insurance benefits through other state agencies. Targeted outreach to people who have been denied or have exhausted UC benefits can connect people with the help they need at the time they need it the most. This play describes how to work with state agencies using a data-driven approach to identify and provide application assistance to individuals who are eligible but not enrolled in SNAP and other benefits programs.

Best practices for this play

First steps: Leverage data to identify people who are likely eligible for help
  • Develop data-sharing agreements between agencies to identify people who recently were denied or who exhausted their unemployment benefits and who were not currently enrolled in other benefit programs such as SNAP, WIC, or health insurance.
  • Reach out to eligible individuals via direct mail, phone calls, and/or text to make them aware that they may be eligible for other benefits and give them a clear next step such as calling a contact center or accessing an enrollment portal.
  • Help people apply for benefits using the best available resources. This may also require offering help assembling verification documents.
Plan for sustainability
  • Evaluate results. Ideally this means tracking the number of people contacted, number of responders, number of applications submitted, and number of new enrollments.
  • Refresh the data. By continuing to match data on an ongoing basis, state agencies and their partners can continue to identify new individuals who recently exhausted their benefits or were denied eligibility.
Real-life Example

Benefits Data Trust (BDT) partnered with Pennsylvania’s Departments of Public Welfare (DPW; now Human Services) and Labor & Industry in 2010-2014 to conduct targeted outreach to individuals who exhausted or were denied UC benefits.

  • Over the first three years of the partnership, BDT contacted 253,000 households and screened 48,000 for potential eligibility, resulting in the submission of over 17,000 SNAP applications.
  • Almost half of all applicants appeared to qualify for expedited SNAP benefits, indicating they had virtually no income or resources. Those approved received an average benefit of $193 per month.
  • Unemployed Pennsylvanians collectively received about $24 million in SNAP benefits annually, generating nearly $40 million in economic activity each year. Outreach was paid for with private dollars and federal matching funds, and SNAP benefits are 100% federally funded – so there was virtually no cost to the state.

For more information, contact Alissa Weiss, Director of Partnerships at or 215-779-0467.


Related categories

Data management Text messaging User experience Workforce


We encourage feedback, comments, and contributions to the Social Tech Playbook. Do you have experience with this play that you can share with your colleagues in the social services sector? We’d love to hear from you.

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