New System Significantly Improves Public Assistance Turnaround
By Sonia Isotov
A new system to handle processing of public assistance is achieving “same-day” results for the public, according to the state’s Department of Human Services.
The Business Processing Re-engineering Project (BPRP) launched by the DHS in November on Maui is already seeing strong signs of public assistance processing improvements.
Maui residents who apply for public assistance programs (food stamps, cash, Medicaid), and the eligibility workers that process their applications, are reporting significant improvements in timeliness.
“The application processing is much quicker under the new system. If applicants have all their required paperwork in order at the Income Maintenance Office, they should be able to complete the application the same day they apply,” said Maui eligibility worker Aranda Kahaialii, in a written statement.
The Maui unit of the DHS Benefit, Employment and Support Services Division (BESSD) is reporting an average of 78% same-day services since launching in early November. On the Big Island, improvements are also significant.
Following the first day of BPRP implementation in late November 2011, the North Hilo unit processed 74% of transactions on the same day clients applied for benefits. South Hilo processed 77% of its transactions on the same day.
BPRP converts the current Case Management system to a Process Management system. The goal is to review and determine applicant eligibility within the federally-mandated period of 30 days, and within 7 days for emergencies.
“Families arriving at our offices need help now, not months down the road,” DHS Director Patricia McManaman said in a written statement
Over the past year, the Hawaii Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) caseload increased 11.1%. SNAP, a federally-sponsored program helps supplement food budgets for low-income working families and individuals, people on public assistance, seniors and people with disabilities. SNAP represents the pledge that hunger “will not be tolerated” in America.
Coupled with reduced staffing as a result of the hiring freeze, and the reduction in force initiatives of previous years, DHS experienced a growing backlog of cases. With the new system (BPRP), DHS is reducing case backlogs and shortening the waiting time for receipt of benefits. Applications are no longer given to a single case worker. Instead, they are handled by several workers who are assigned to specific stages of the review process – Intake, Interviewing, Pending, Processing and Maintenance.
SNAP administrator, Linda Tsark said in a written statement, “It’s getting so exciting to watch this unfold and realize the amount of meaningful work that is being accomplished and the difference we are making in the lives of our clients and our workers.”