Today, we testified in support of LB 1041, a bill designed to address challenges of the ACCESS Nebraska system.
February 1, 2012
To: Health and Human Services Committee
From: Aubrey Mancuso, Policy Coordinator
RE: Support for LB 1041, the Department of Health and Human Services Delivery Improvement and Efficiency Act
Voices for Children supports LB 1041 because it improves the delivery of public benefits for both Health and Human Services staff and consumers. Like many on this committee, we have continually heard challenges related to accessing benefits under the new ACCESS Nebraska system. We have taken steps to modernize the way benefits are delivered, but we have taken relatively few steps to modernize the programs themselves.
The federal government allows state flexibility on some measures of eligibility and verification in our public benefit programs. LB 1041 modernizes these programs by maximizing this flexibility to simplify application and verification requirements across programs. Modernizing features of our public benefit programs can help to alleviate some of the issues with new ACCESS Nebraska system.
Last year, this committee and the legislature took a step toward modernization by increasing asset limits in the SNAP, or food stamp, program. One provision of LB 1041 aligns the asset tests for the child care and Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) programs with SNAP. Nebraska is one of only two states that uses any asset test in its child care program. Nationally, state policies continue to evolve toward the easing of these limits based in part by the recognition that significant time and efforts are spent verifying assets that most often turn out to be limited. In addition, this change allows families who need assistance due to temporary hardship to preserve minimal resources for long-term financial security like retirement accounts and college savings accounts.
Currently, our public benefit programs are not utilizing all available resources to verify eligibility information. The new focus on online systems under ACCESS Nebraska should also incorporate the use of technology to the extent possible in verifying eligibility. LB 1041 would require that information already provided to other public benefit programs as well as state databases be used to verify this information. This decrease in required paperwork is consistent with the new focus on online services and streamlines the process for both workers and consumers.
Nebraskans are hardworking people who want to take care of their families in the best way possible. In our SNAP program, where we track error rates, Nebraska has ranked the best in the nation since 2006 in accurately providing benefits to those who need them. This is likely due in part to the workers who process these cases, but I believe it also has to do with the fact that Nebraskans don’t seek this kind of help unless they really need it. I believe that Nebraska has the capability and the opportunity to be a leader in efficiency in our public benefit programs by advancing LB 1041.
We urge the committee to advance this bill. Thank you.