Eight more states and the District of Columbia have signed on to adopt their own versions of OnwardCA.org, a one-stop website to provide information on emergency resources and job prospects to workers who have been displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, Washington, Oregon, Connecticut and the nation’s capital launched their state-specific Onward websites on Tuesday.
Along with Colorado, which rolled out its OnwardCO.org online site last week, the platform developed by Fresno-based technology firm Bitwise Industries is now operating in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
OnwardCA.org went live on April 2, less than a month ago. The growing cadre of states joining the platform represent the latest boost of the OnwardUS coalition, said Jake Soberal, Bitwise co-founder and co-CEO.
“After a $5 million investment and 300 new hires, the OnwardUS.org platform that was originally created to help California has now scaled to serve one-third of the United States population, stretching from coast to coast,” Soberal said. “Our goal is to serve as many people as possible in their time of need.”
In mid-March, states across the U.S. began to impose closures of non-essential businesses and issued stay-at-home guidance for residents to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus. Since that time, more than 26 million people nationwide have filed initial claims for unemployment benefits after losing their jobs to the pandemic, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, including more than 3.3 million in California.
In California and the other states using the OnwardUS platform in coming weeks, the websites aim to provide information and links to resources, based on the user’s location and personal needs, in three distinct tiers of aid:
Immediate sources for monetary aid — from unemployment to industry relief funds for workers to loans and grants for small businesses.
Emergency non-monetary resources — including food, shelter, medicine, groceries, child-care, and more.
Job matching — to pair up workers’ skills with companies that are doing immediate hiring because of higher demand during the coronavirus-precaution measures, like call centers and deliveries of food and other goods. Job-training resources are also planned for people who need to make a change in career after losing their jobs to the pandemic.
The California site was launched because while a wealth of websites, resources, programs and more have been created to help workers and families affected by the pandemic, they are scattered online and can be difficult to locate. OnwardCA.org provides one focal point where people can search an array of resources that are available where they live and work.
Within its first day of operation, the California website had attracted 100,000 visitors, and 250,000 in its first week, Soberal said. As of mid-April, more than 300,000 people had used OnwardCA.org to be matched to at least one resource for help, Bitwise reported.
Soberal added that Bitwise has hired the equivalent of about 200 full-time workers to handle putting information from assistance organizations, job listings and other resources into the growing databases for California and other states.
Bitwise and its software development arm, Shift3 Technologies, were joined in the development of OnwardCA.org and the new state websites by The Kapor Center, an Oakland-based technology nonprofit.
“After the incredible response to OnwardCA.org, we realized this resource was desperately needed in many other communities,” said Freada Kapor Klein, co-chair of the Kapor Center. “This website was created out of necessity, by software developers from communities most impacted by this crisis, who are often overlooked by the technology industry and it is now serving our country in its time of need.”