New York City launched the first phase of an online portal — called “MyCity” — that could eventually allow residents to apply for food stamps, rental assistance, unemployment insurance and other public services and benefits in one location.
Users can access the city’s new, streamlined child care assistance application through MyCity, according to a press release Wednesday. Later this year, the city plans to launch additional services intended to help job seekers and small business owners.
In a statement, New York City Mayor Eric Adams claimed MyCity would make it easier for New Yorkers to apply for city services and benefits. “We are using the power of technology to reduce the bureaucracy and red tape in our government,” he said.
Adams originally floated the idea for MyCity during his mayoral campaign and announced his plans to implement it during his first State of the City address in 2022. The Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, which led MyCity’s development, told the Gotham Gazette in July that the portal would be up and running by the end of last year, but it was delayed.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Adams blamed competing priorities, including the COVID-19 pandemic and a surge in asylum seekers, for the delays. “We had a lot of stuff going on and we wanted to get it right,” he said, according to a transcript of the press conference.
Adams said the city would continue to take a cautious approach to rolling out additional features rather than “race through it just to beat an imaginary deadline” since the online portal could eventually play a key role in administering city services and benefits. “Every layer is going to have the tires kicked by the users,” he said, according to the transcript.
During the press conference, Matthew Fraser, New York City’s chief technology officer, said the city spent the past few months testing the online portal with residents applying for child care assistance. “We said, ‘Hey, you're filling out an application now, do you have some time where we can show you something and tell us how well this works considering that you just went through that process? Then, how well does it rate to other systems that you used for other things, like simple things,’” he said, according to the transcript.
He also noted that the MyCity rollout was slowed because child care assistance is regulated by the state and federal governments, necessitating their approval. “The fact that we not only built a system, but we got it through state and federal oversight in a matter of 15 months, that's a minor miracle in and of itself,” Fraser said, according to the transcript.
He added that the city would continue MyCity’s “iterative deployment” rather than waiting until all city services and benefits are available, noting that it’s prioritizing high-impact services that are analog, lengthy and opaque. “We have a lot of digital forms today. Some of those things work, and they may not be the best, but at least there's something. We're not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We'll find the services that we can incorporate and bring them in,” Fraser said, according to the transcript.