JACKSONVILLE, Florida (February 18, 2011) – The University of Florida will lead development of a statewide online benefit information system supported by a grant of $128,500 from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.
The University of Florida project would be the first attempt in the State of Florida to collect statewide information on public and private services available locally for low-income people. No single resource currently exists for a poor person to access, from any area of the state, information on public benefits, emergency food services, energy assistance, disability services, financial education and debt management, tax preparation, mentoring services, legal services, homeowner services and the like.
University staff conducted 27 regional and two statewide meetings over the past 18 months to assess the availability of information to help low-income residents across the state. “We concluded that while many organizations providing such information share the same target audience, they are unaware of what others can and are providing for their clients,” wrote University President J. Bernard Machen.
Many government agencies are limited in the types of services that they may help poor people, enhancing the need for a non-government entity to create the system. The University of Florida has offices in each of Florida’s 67 counties, making it uniquely positioned to fill this niche. In addition, the University has access to student assistants and extension office staff to help maintain current information.
“This free single source of information online will aid low-income clients in urban parts of the state and will be absolutely critical to the many rural pockets of poor Floridians,” wrote Machen.
The Jessie Ball duPont Fund makes grants to more than 330 eligible organizations identified by Mrs. duPont in her will. The Fund has assets of more than $281 million and has awarded more than $303 million in grants since 1977.