On Monday, Voices for Children partnered with other organizations to host the first in a series of “listening sessions” on ACCESSNebraska. ACCESSNebraska is the state’s new way of providing public benefits like food stamps, Medicaid, and child care subsidies. In 2010, the state changed from a model of providing benefits with an assigned caseworker for beneficiaries and in-person appointments to a new system where applications are done primarily online. Staff has also been reduced and call centers now provide application assistance. The purpose of the listening session was to hear from clients and non-profits impacted by these changes to determine how the system is working for them.
We heard many stories about challenges with using the new system, especially from older adults and people with disabilities. The common challenges included long wait times at the call center, lost paperwork, confusing notices, and non-profit workers assuming the role of state caseworkers without having adequate time, training or capacity to do so.
A society is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable among us. Many of those relying on our public benefit programs are vulnerable citizens including older disabled adults and our state’s poorest children. The stories we heard at the listening session indicate that Nebraska can do better in how we treat them.
We appreciate that there are challenges in rollling out a new system and think that the use of more technology is a step in the right direction, but we have to make sure we’re not somehow leaving some of our most vulnerable citizens behind.
Have you used ACCESSNebraska? How is it working for you? We’re happy to listen. And we hope that the Department of Health and Human Services will too.
Upcoming listening sessions on ACCESSNebraska:
October 31st 1-3pm @ Northeast Community College in Norfolk
November 2nd 1-3pm @ Eastern Nebraska Community Action Partnership in Omaha
November 3rd 2-4pm @ Blue Valley Community Action in Fairbury
November 8th 1-3pm @ Trinity United Methodist Church in Grand Island