LINCOLN — Problems continue with the call centers used to handle public benefits applications in Nebraska, despite state efforts to make changes.
State lawmakers got an update Tuesday on the call center system, called AccessNebraska.
Thomas Pristow, state director of children and family services, said the system represents the “gold standard” nationally for delivering food stamps, Medicaid, energy assistance and other public benefits.
But he also acknowledged there are still concerns with the system.
“I want to assure you from the get-go that we have made progress in addressing the issues brought before this committee and that we continue to evaluate and make adjustments to further improve the system,” Pristow said.
Most recently, he said, the Department of Health and Human Services has dropped the quotas used for call center workers.
Requiring workers to handle target numbers of phone calls proved “oppressive” for staff, Pristow said. The quotas pushed employees to rush through calls at the expense of accuracy.
AccessNebraska was instituted with the goal of modernizing and streamlining the way the state provides benefits. The change was projected to save $5 million a year in state and federal funds when fully implemented, largely by cutting jobs and closing some local offices.
Along with call centers, the project involved online benefits applications and electronic scanning and storage of documents filed with applications.
During its first several months of operation, applicants reported long waits on the telephone, lost documents, lack of continuity and the loss of personal contact with caseworkers who know their clients.
At Tuesday’s hearing, some people who have used the system more recently reported the same issues.
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