Lincoln, Neb. – The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one of the nation’s best tools for combating child hunger. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which imposes rigorous requirements on the states in furtherance of this mission, recently released the official SNAP overpayment, underpayment and payment error rates for Federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 (October 1 through September 30), under the amended quality control (QC) provisions of Section 16 (c) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (FNA). The SNAP QC System measures the accuracy of State eligibility and benefit determinations.
Nationally, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) finished FY17 ranked 8th in the country for Active Error Rate, with an accuracy rate of 95.94 percent (i.e. a payment error rate of 4.06 percent), beating the national performance measure (national average payment error rate) of 6.3 percent. The payment error rate is calculated by taking the sum of the overpayment rate and the underpayment rate. Nebraska’s overpayment rate was 3.54 percent and the underpayment rate was .52 percent. This low SNAP error rate means that by significantly reducing the margin for administrative error, DHHS is doing its part to ensure low income families have access to healthy food options, and that eligible families receive benefits when they need them and in a timely manner.
According to the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) website at www.fns.usda.gov, an improper payment can occur for the following reasons:
- Incorrect amounts were paid to an eligible client;
- Payments were made to a client incorrectly determined as eligible; or
- Payments were made for which insufficient or no documentation was found.
Because Nebraska earned one of the lowest validated payment error rates for this fiscal year, the state will receive a SNAP Performance Bonus in the amount of $639,063. FNS announced the award to DHHS in a congratulatory letter to Dr. Courtney Phillips, chief executive officer (CEO) of DHHS.
CEO Phillips credits the work of DHHS teammates. “Our Eligibility Operations team has made a concerted effort to continuously improve the level of customer service the department offers the people of Nebraska.” she said. “When we first began working to improve ACCESSNebraska, it was taking up to 40 days to process one SNAP application. In April 2018, it was just seven days on average. Last month, we celebrated the end of the court order stemming from a class-action lawsuit filed in 2014. Now, this accolade serves as a further testament to our team’s hard work. Not only are we processing applications and determining eligibility in a timely manner, but we are also doing so with a significantly low error rate. We look forwarding to reinvesting the bonus payment into Nebraska’s SNAP program and continuing our mission of helping people live better lives.”
Section 4021 of the FNA, requires performance bonus payments be used only for SNAP related expenses, including investments in technology, improvements in administration and distribution, and actions to prevent fraud, waste and abuse. The USDA strongly encourages states in receipt of the bonus to use the funds to improve program administration, particularly as it relates to the area of program integrity. Accordingly, DHHS must develop a plan for use of the bonus payment in advance of its receipt.
FNS and Nebraska share the responsibility of ensuring the validity of information reported for SNAP improper payment, and work together to strengthen the integrity of the SNAP Quality Control System.
ACCESSNebraska, the program through which citizens access benefits like SNAP, has seen several other successes over the course of the past year. Thus far, in July, the Eligibility Operations team at DHHS has been able to determine eligibility on 35 percent of SNAP applications the same day they were received and averaged 7 days to make a determination for Economic Assistance.
Other recent ACCESSNebraska accomplishments, as it relates to SNAP, include:
- Consistently being ranked No. 2 nationally in Case and Procedural Error Rate (CAPERS). This ranking will be finalized in September 2018.
- Processing 13,129 total SNAP applications in June, with a timeliness rate of 99.38 percent.
- Exceeding the 95 percent federal benchmark for timely processing of SNAP applications for the past 29 months.
- Averaging 7.59 days to process applications in June, for seven months in a row of processing SNAP applications in less than 10 days.
- Averaging a 4:53 call wait time in June, with shorter wait times contributing to timely processing and helping DHHS more quickly connect families and children to needed benefits.
If you or someone you know needs food assistance via the SNAP program, which helps put healthy food options on Nebraskans’ tables, please contact ACCESSNebraska atwww.accessnebraska.ne.gov.