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U.S. Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) reported that ACCESSNebraska’s processing rate improved to 91.67 percent for April-September 2015, up from 62.79 percent in early 2014. With a margin of error at 3.68 percent, the high end of the state’s rate is 95.35 percent.
FNS informed DHHS in January 2015 that the higher rate needed to be 85 percent to meet this first benchmark. The most recent average processing rate nationally was 89.46 percent.
“This is another significant accomplishment by ACCESSNebraska in addressing the needs of vulnerable Nebraskans,” said Governor Pete Ricketts. “In recent months, we’ve seen call wait times and the days it takes to process applications fall in response to improved processes. With accuracy headed in a positive direction, we look forward to what ACCESSNebraska accomplishes next.”
ACCESSNebraska’s national ranking improved to 27th nationally, FNS reported. That’s a steady improvement since August 2014 when FNS reported Nebraska was rated last in the country. In August 2015, the ranking moved up to 39th, and by November 2015 was 32nd.
“This validates we’re making positive improvements processing SNAP applications, and more importantly we’re making progress in our efforts to be more efficient, accurate and customer friendly,” said Courtney Phillips, DHHS CEO. “We’ve crossed an important threshold in addressing federal compliance issues. That’s great news and we’ll continue to make improvements. I’m thankful for our dedicated employees committed to continuous improvements.”
Nebraska’s improved responsiveness is reflected in call wait times, said Doug Weinberg, Director of the DHHS Division of Children and Family Services. For the five months since September 2015, the call wait time has averaged below five minutes.
Other improvements have resulted in providing benefits to clients faster. For instance, letters to clients are now mailed in the early afternoon on Friday and before holidays rather than at the end of the day. As a result, clients receive notices days earlier and are able to return information more quickly, helping reduce processing times.
Also, a pilot recently was completed that tested sending text messages to clients reminding them of interview appointments the following day. The test of 500 clients receiving texts found that attendance was 20 percent higher, at 69 percent, than the control group that didn’t receive texts. Weinberg said texting will be implemented system-wide this summer.
“These are examples of the constant, ongoing innovation we’re using to provide the best service for our clients,” Weinberg said. “We will continue to be relentless in identifying more ways to improve our service.”
A report on the second FNS milestone is expected to be released this summer and will cover Oct. 1-March 31.
Monthly updates on the performance of SNAP and Economic Assistance are available on the DHHS website: accessnebraska.gov by clicking on Key Performance Metrics.