***For Immediate Release***
March 4, 2016
|Contact, Jeff Sheldon
Communications Director, Nebraska Appleseed
Office: (402) 438-8853
Mobile: (402) 840-7289
Public Information Officer, DHHS
Office: (402) 471-8287
Proposed settlement will help Nebraska families eligible for food assistance
Agreement would end lawsuit regarding delays in administering SNAP
LINCOLN — An agreement recently was reached between the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Nebraska Appleseed to settle litigation resulting in the timely administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly referred to as “food stamps”) for thousands of Nebraska families.
The agreement in the case of Leiting-Hall v. Winterer, a class action suit filed in 2014, is the result of considerable improvement made by DHHS in efficiently administering the program, and a result of its commitment to take actions to sustain this improvement for the long term.
“The Department of Health and Human Services is clearly dedicated to continuously improving operations at ACCESSNebraska and providing customer-friendly service,” Governor Pete Ricketts said. “Today’s proposed agreement reaffirms the reforms and process improvements we implemented have moved ACCESSNebraska beyond its previous challenges.”
“The resolution of this lawsuit is good news for Nebraska. We’ve made significant progress during the past year resulting in significantly improved service to our clients and improved federal rankings,” said Courtney Phillips, DHHS CEO.
“We are very pleased to reach this agreement with DHHS and thank their staff for taking steps to improve the SNAP administration process for eligible Nebraska families,” said Nebraska Appleseed staff attorney Molly McCleery. “We are happy with this outcome for our clients and the class, and we will continue to work to ensure the public benefits system functions effectively in the future for working Nebraska families.”
The most recent federal reports, for April-Sept. 2015, show Nebraska’s timely processing of SNAP applications was as high as 95.35 percent, above the federal benchmark of 85 percent. Nebraska’s national ranking also improved to 27th nationally. The upward movement is steady, moving up from 39th in August 2015 and 32nd in November.
“This validates we’re making positive improvements processing SNAP applications and more importantly, making progress in our efforts to be more customer focused, efficient and accurate,” said Phillips. “I’m thankful for our dedicated employees committed to continuous improvements.”
The settlement agreement requires DHHS to timely process at least 96 percent of SNAP applications. The court’s jurisdiction will end when DHHS maintains compliance with these standards for 25 out of 28 months.
Leiting-Hall v. Winterer was filed in U.S. District Court by Nebraska Appleseed and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice on behalf of a working, single mother who faced delays in receiving an eligibility ruling for SNAP. Because of the essential nature of access to food, federal law mandates decisions on SNAP applications be issued within certain timeframes.
The case was certified a class-action suit in 2015. A hearing on the settlement will be held April 1.
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