The Unicameral is creating a special investigative committee to look at AccessNebraska, an online program used to apply for state assistance. The panel will be made up of seven members of the legislature’s executive board. It will look at client experiences with the system and examine staffing, training and use of technology.
Senator Annette Dubas of Fullerton authored LR 400, saying AccessNebraska has been problem plagued since day one.
“The department’s stated purpose for Access is to make economic assistance service delivery the best it can be for people of Nebraska, increase accessibility, increase responsiveness, maintain accuracy and increase efficiency,” Dubas says. “Unfortunately, this program has failed on all counts.”
The initial website for AccessNebraska was unveiled in 2008. Dubas said there is a high level of dysfunction in the program, based on a performance audit report.
“Something that was supposed to have saved the state millions of dollars has ended up costing our citizens through inefficiencies and valuable time,” Dubas says. “It has created a work atmosphere among employees of fear and frustration to the point where for some employees I visited with, it is impacting their physical health.”
Dubas says the problems go farther than just the amount of time applicants are spending on the telephone, seeking assistance.
She says, “The problems go so much further than that, inability to answer questions and help with applications, lost paperwork, work tasks that put staff in very difficult positions are just a few of the more serious problems we continue to face with Access Nebraska.”
Dubas says creating the investigative committee would be a similar approach to how the legislature dealt with other performance concerns in the past. She says an independent analysis of the problems and possible solutions would be better than considering piece-meal legislation. A performance audit committee previously examined other states’ call center programs. There are four call centers in the AccessNebraska program.
Senator Kate Sullivan says a similar investigative report made a big difference in the operation of the Beatrice State Developmental Center. Sullivan said, however, it is important for the special committee to maintain communication with the standing legislative committee that has jurisdiction over AccessNebraska.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice