LIVING the American dream comes with sacrifices of time and treasure.
For Jimmy Chen, 34, he took his first-hand experience and turned it into a positive to help low-income families.
He remembers a time when his family struggled with food insecurity.
Mr Chen shared a memory of how his dad would skip meals to make sure the family had enough to eat.
It was memories like that which Mr Chen carries with him on his professional journey.
In 2014, he founded the tech startup, Propel.
It creates software which is helping millions of low-income people every month.
People have access to a free app called Providers.
Those EBT cards can be linked to the Providers app.
Most read in money
His mission to help this population is personal.
Living the dream
Mr Chen was four years old when his family moved to the United States.
He sat down with The Sun to give a candid look at his life before he became a tech entrepreneur: “I was a four-year old immigrant kid who came with his parents from China.”
He shared how his parents grew wary of the way of life after Tiananmen Square and decided America would be a fresh start.
The Chen family settled in Kansas City, Missouri, a midwestern state not known for a lot of diversity back in the early nineties.
His parents would work odd jobs to make ends meet.
Mr Chen said: “There were good times and bad times. During bad times, food was tight.”
“We didn’t get Christmas presents. Money was just always a scarce resource.”
Though the family’s income level would’ve made them qualify for food stamps, they were never on government assistance.
As Mr Chen explained: “Immigrants didn’t qualify.”
His parents worked to provide a good education and he knew he wanted more.
Mr Chen went on to study at Stanford. Then, a fellowship a few years later allowed him an opportunity to nurture an idea he was passionate about.
Technology meets a mission
Mr Chen shared how there are lots of tech startups and entrepreneurs “who create software to help people get rich on crypto, find rides, get dates or do laundry because those are the challenges that they face everyday”.
His fellowship allowed him to use his experiences which focused on “the daily dealings that people have in their financial lives and how technology can help”.
Mr Chen added: “Technology can’t solve poverty.
“A social mission was important. Something to provide a long-lasting impact.”
Born from that idea was his tech startup, Propel.
It created a free mobile app called Providers.
For SNAP recipients, their monthly benefits are loaded onto an EBT card which works like a debit card.
It can be used at SNAP approved retailers to buy healthy food.
The Providers app helps EBT card holders access their own information to check balances.
Free at Providers
The Providers app does more than provide balances.
As Mr Chen explained: “Providers is like the rewards program for the EBT card.”
It gives EBT card holders access to discounted offers for cell phones, broadband, ways to get cheaper healthcare, job listings and much more.
Mr Chen’s team curates the discounted offers with other companies who are also mission-minded with the goal to help low-income families.
The Providers name came about because Mr Chen said a vast majority, about 80% of their users, are parents and he repeatedly heard how “they want to be a good provider for their children”.
Mr Chen added: “Our most powerful tool was able to go beyond the practicality of checking your balance.
“It was to give people a sense of dignity.”
How do you qualify for SNAP?
Throughout the US, more than 41.5million Americans receive SNAP benefits every month.
You must apply for SNAP in the state in which you live and meet certain bank balance limits.
The total amount of SNAP benefits your household gets each month is called an allotment.
SNAP households are expected to spend about 30% of their own resources on food.
The USDA says the maximum monthly allotment is based on household size.
For example, for a family of four, the maximum allotment is $835.
Each state has a different application form and process.
Benefits are paid on a specific day each month, depending on your state.
Plus, why not all grocery stores accept SNAP EBT cards.
We pay for your stories!
Do you have a story for The US Sun team?