Nebraska earns another $1.7 million in federal bonuses after fixing state’s food stamp system
LINCOLN — Nebraska has earned another $1.7 million in federal performance bonuses after regaining its top-tier ranking in processing food stamp applications.
Officials announced Thursday that the state will get nearly $1.35 million for fiscal year 2017 and $335,846 for the previous year.
Nebraska earned the money for above-average accuracy in denying applications and ending benefits to households that do not qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The state ranked second-best nationally in 2017 and fourth-best in 2016.
Matt Wallen, director of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Division of Children and Family Services, called the bonuses “a team award.”
Nebraska previously announced a $639,063 bonus for its eighth-best ranking in accurately providing food aid to needy people in 2017.
Wallen said the money will be used to enhance AccessNebraska, the call center system used to process applications for food assistance, Medicaid and other public benefits. Federal regulations require bonus money to be used for expenses related to SNAP, a program commonly known as food stamps.
The bonuses reflect a turnaround in the call center system. Nebraska regularly earned federal performance bonuses before launching AccessNebraska.
The state used the funds to develop AccessNebraska and support its operation in the early years.
But problems plagued the system from the start and cost the state its bonuses for several years. The problems included long wait times, lost documents, a backlog of unfinished tasks and delays in providing needed benefits.
The system began improving after Gov. Pete Ricketts took office and named it a priority for the Department of Health and Human Services.