Through CiviForm, Harrell optimizes access to Seattle’s discount programs

Jul 13, 2023, 7:19 AM | Updated: 7:53 am

mayor harrell's budget...

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell (Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images)

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell is expanding the accessibility of the city’s discount and benefit programs through CiviForm, an online portal designed as a one-stop shop to quickly and conveniently apply for city services, saving residents time and money by making it easier to apply for multiple benefit and discount programs at the same time.

Harrell claimed CiviForm can save families up to $23,000 per year and reduce application time by approximately 80%.

The CiviForm program was conceived after Executive Order 2023-05 was created in order to direct all Seattle benefit and discount programs to identify and implement changes that decrease the burden on residents.

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“This unified approach will decrease the time and effort to apply for programs, offer supported and self-serve options, leverage limited marketing dollars, and increase enrollment in city programs that help lower the cost to live and thrive in Seattle,” the executive order reads.

Departments are directed to adopt or integrate with the CiviForm platform by the end of 2024.

“CiviForm is a game changer for our communities – this exciting initiative and new technology is already making a meaningful difference supporting Seattle residents, helping them save time, save money, and access the resources and programs they need,” Harrell said in a prepared statement. “CiviForm exemplifies our One Seattle approach to public-private collaborations: Its development was supported by know-how from technology companies, and its design was informed by testing with community non-profit partners.”

 CiviForm received pro-bono support from Google.org Fellows while it was being engineered, but the City of Seattle remains the custodian of all the data the portal receives. The data will not be shared with Google.

“We jumped at the opportunity to support Seattle through the Google.org Fellowship program, which offered local Googlers across a range of functions including program management, engineering, UX, and more to give back to their communities,” Paco Galanes, Google Director and leader of its Puget Sound offices, said in a prepared statement. “This collaboration demonstrates what can happen when the public and private sector come together and use technology as a vehicle to create equitable access to critical resources for everyone.”

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The programs included currently with CiviForm are the Seattle Parks and Recreation Scholarship Program, the Seattle Preschool Program, the Gold Card, and the FLASH Card.

Seattle Parks and Recreation Scholarship Program features savings ranging from 50-90% off for residents to enjoy recreation programs for all ages, including aquatics, recreation, preschool, and childcare. The Seattle Preschool Program grants residents access to free or discounted preschool for children ages three and four. Seattle residents age 60 and older can save on retail, services, art, entertainment, and tourism with the Gold Card, including free passes to the Seattle Aquarium.

Residents with qualifying disabilities between the ages of 18-59 can earn the same or similar savings the Gold Card offers with the FLASH Card.

“The Gold and FLASH Card program, for older adults and people with disabilities, has seen a steady increase in eligible applications thanks to CiviForm’s unified platform, and their ongoing technical support allowed us to translate our web application into multiple languages to reduce barriers to applying and reach multi-lingual audiences,” Meg Woolf, a staff member of Seattle’s Human Services Department, said in a prepared statement.

Woolf is also an age-friendly program coordinator with the city.

CiviForm was developed by Seattle’s Innovation and Performance Department and the Seattle Information Technology Department. The online resource also received a significant amount of community input and feedback to ensure the program will work for the city’s residents.

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“We heard from residents how tired they are finding and then repeating their information to apply to each individual city program,” said Leah Tivoli, Director of Seattle Innovation and Performance. “We also heard from residents the critical role community-based organizations play in their lives, helping them connect to the myriad of programs offered at the city of Seattle and other jurisdictions and authorities.”

Smart Cities Connect named CiviForm — first launched in June 2021 — one of the 50 most transformative smart projects of 2023. The list featured technological advancements occurring around the world, including two originating from Seattle. The second was King County Metro improving its passenger transit with Connectpoint.

“Based on CiviForm’s early success, this is a model that other jurisdictions across the country are learning from and adopting, and we hope to continue to see more embrace this approach,” Harrell added. “Our commitment to serving as a learning, growing organization means we won’t just stop at releasing CiviForm – we will continue to improve and enhance this program for neighbors across Seattle.

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Through CiviForm, Harrell optimizes access to Seattle’s discount programs