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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 17, 2010

CONTACT
Jeanne Atkinson, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-8287

DHHS Receives Grant to Help Low-Income Nebraskans Access Healthy, Nutritious Food

Lincoln – The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is one of eight state agencies in the nation to receive grant monies to help bring healthy and nutritious food to Nebraskans who need it the most. The $824,611 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) benefits the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which is administered by DHHS, and focuses on the needs of rural Nebraskans.

SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, helps ensure that people have access to healthy and nutritious foods. SNAP is the largest of the federal nutritional assistance programs, which also includes programs such as Women, Infants and Children (WIC), school meals and disaster relief. In July 2010, 72,978 households in Nebraska received SNAP assistance.

“In such difficult economic times, people may need public assistance now even if they’ve never needed it before,” said Todd Reckling, Director, of DHHS’ Division of Children and Family Services. “Our community partners are an important part of that process. They continue to work with us to make sure eligible Nebraskans know about SNAP and how to apply for it. I can’t thank our partners enough for the good work they are doing in the communities every day.”

DHHS will work with the Food Bank of Lincoln and the Food Bank for the Heartland to develop computer access points at Food Pantry locations to increase the availability of DHHS programs and services. Volunteers at those locations will help people apply on-line for public assistance benefits through DHHS’ secure ACCESSNebraska website ( www.ACCESSNebraska.ne.gov). Eventually, community partners and low-income Nebraskans will be able to submit eligibility documents on-line by using scanners attached to these computers at various food pantry locations. Eligibility documents include income statements, receipts for rent and utilities, etc.

A new feature, “Verification Upload,” will be added to the ACCESSNebraska website as part of this grant. This feature will allow users to submit documents online. Submitting verification documents electronically will streamline the application and eligibility process. Because eligibility documents won’t have to be mailed or taken to a local DHHS office, it will save time and money, too.

“The people getting food at food pantries are the ones who need SNAP benefits the most,” said Susan Ogborn, President, Food Bank for the Heartland. “We are honored and excited to be a part of this expanding partnership.”

“This grant gives us the tools we need so we can better work together to help eligible Nebraskans get access to the food assistance they need,” said Scott Young, Executive Director, Food Bank of Lincoln. “This partnership will provide great support for the low-income families and individuals we serve in southeast Nebraska.” These two food banks serve all the counties in Nebraska.

Nebraska’s SNAP program has received national attention for program accuracy and fiscal integrity. According to the USDA, Nebraska ranks first in the nation with a 0.00 negative error rate in distribution and fifth in the nation for payment error rate (payment accuracy).

“We continue to have extremely low error rates in SNAP program administration and have received substantial performance bonuses from the federal government for doing our job so well,” Reckling said. “We also recently received an exceptional review from the USDA concerning the fiscal integrity of our SNAP-Ed program where we work with the University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension to help teach people who receive SNAP benefits about nutrition. The review letter said that Nebraska’s review was “very impressive, clearly demonstrating the quality of services and quality of SNAP-Ed staff.”

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