REPORT FROM DHS – HONOLULU – The Department of Human Services (DHS) Benefit, Employment and Support Services Division (BESSD) has successfully closed a February 2011 class action lawsuit for failure to issue Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits within timeframes outlined by federal law. To address the application backlog, BESSD developed and implemented the Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) project, which converted the former Case Management system to a Process Management system.
Between Oct. 1, 2013 and Aug. 31, 2014, the average monthly timeliness rate for SNAP applications increased to 96.83 percent, a 30-percent improvement since Gov. Neil Abercrombie came into office.
“BESSD eligibility workers now consistently review and determine applicant eligibility within the federally mandated period of 30 days and seven days for emergencies,” said Pankaj Bhanot, BESSD Administrator.
As a result of these measurable improvements and successes, the U.S. District Court recently issued an Order of Settlement and Dismissal. “The dismissal is most welcome,” said DHS Director Patricia McManaman. “It is really a testament to the dedication and hard work of the DHS BESSD staff.”
Dismissal of the lawsuit follows a $724,000 federal Food and Nutrition (FNS) Service bonus to BESSD for the nation’s most improved SNAP Program Access Index. The BESSD also received the 2014 Global Case Management Award for Excellence in Social Services for its nationally recognized enterprise content management solutions. Combined with the reengineered business processing, both initiatives contributed significantly to the improved application processing rates.
The class action lawsuit addressed application backlogs that accrued between 2008 and 2011, a period when the number of Hawaii SNAP recipients increased from 93,956 to more than 179,700 participants. During that same period, DHS also was operating with a severely reduced workforce and limited program funding. In some locations, timely application processing rates dropped to 29 percent.
Today, SNAP application processing rates vary between 96-98 percent, and BESSD continues to exceed federal requirements. Currently, an estimated 98,360 Hawaii households (193,446 individuals) receive SNAP assistance each month. On average, BESSD issues $43.3 million in benefits each month to Hawaii SNAP recipients.