Helping low-income Americans discover benefits with a streamlined deployment pipeline

Benefit Kitchen

Public Benefits

Challenge

Benefit Kitchen’s web application informs low-income Americans about crucial government benefit programs, but the process of deploying updates was time-consuming, cumbersome, and error-prone.

Solution

8th Light simplified the app’s precompilation process and implemented an autonomous pipeline to manage deployments.

Result

Benefit Kitchen is able to respond quickly and nimbly, ensuring they provide the most up-to-date info to their users while also preparing them to scale and connect even more opportunities in the future.

About a third of Americans are eligible for essential work-support programs like SNAP (foodstamps), Medicaid (healthcare), and Cash Assistance. Eligible families are not automatically enrolled in these programs—claiming them requires navigating a constellation of applications and forms administered separately by city, state, and federal agencies.

This scattered user experience has a negative impact on our communities. Every year, more than 100 million Americans leave $80 Billion in benefits unclaimed.

Benefit Kitchen, a small Brooklyn-based startup, provides a to-the-dollar estimate of a family’s benefit eligibility through its screener app. A head of household can input information about the household’s demographics, income, and expenses, and get back benefit, budget, and referral information.

After creating this web app and successfully helping users claim their benefits, the Benefit Kitchen team encountered some challenges as they grew to serve more states: the process of deploying updates to the web application was becoming more time-consuming and error-prone.

Introducing a deployment pipeline

Each time the Benefit Kitchen team updated the app, they would manually precompile all of the code via the command line. Every time Benefit Kitchen added a new state to its service, the deployment process would become increasingly longer. When 8th Light’s team joined the project, they noticed that this precompilation process was doing a lot of work—even if the majority of the app remained unchanged. 8th Light updated the codebase to remove duplicated effort, and cut the deployment process time in half.

Further analysis revealed other inefficiencies further downstream. 8th Light’s crafters discovered that the entire deployment process was being run on the production AWS EC2 instance, which needed to precompile all of the updated assets to deploy the new website. This meant that Benefit Kitchen required a large full-time AWS EC2 instance just to accommodate its deployments.

8th Light separated the deployment process with a custom pipeline. The pipeline freed up the production server’s resources to focus only serving the application’s users, which allowed Benefit Kitchen to downsize its server specifications and halve its monthly server costs. The pipeline’s GUI also removed the error-prone CLI commands that were required in the earlier deployment setup.

This new asset pipeline is so much easier for me to deploy, and adding new states to our service no longer raises questions of whether we’ll need to add server horsepower to accommodate the compile process!

Dan Beeby, CTO of Benefit Kitchen

Benefit Kitchen’s new infrastructure allows them to make updates much more rapidly, reliably, and cost-effectively.

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