Hawaii Food Assistance Program Receives Federal Award

Posted on Oct 22, 2013 in NEWS

The State of Hawaii Department of Human Services (DHS) has been awarded a federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) bonus of $724,139 for the most improved Program Access Index for fiscal year 2012.

Formerly called Food Stamps, the federally funded SNAP program provides crucial food and nutritional support to qualifying low-income and needy households. SNAP is administered through the federal Food and Nutrition Service (FNS); however, state agencies determine applicant eligibility and monthly benefits.

“This award is the result of great work by the DHS Benefits, Employment and Support Services Division (BESSD) staff,” said DHS Deputy Director Barbara Yamashita.  “It’s encouraging that the federal SNAP program recognizes Hawaii’s commitment to program integrity, customer service, and improved performance.”

An FNS representative is flying to Hawaii in December to present an award plaque to BESSD.

Between 2008 and 2012, the number of Hawaii SNAP recipients increased from 93,956 to more than 179,700 participants. During that period, the DHS was operating with a severely reduced workforce and limited program funding. In some locations, timely application processing rates dropped to about 75 percent.

BESSD developed and implemented the Business Process Re-engineering Program (BPRP) in late 2011 to address the applications backlog. The BPRP converted the former Case Management system to a Process Management system. BESSD eligibility workers now consistently review and determine applicant eligibility within the federally mandated period of 30 days; seven days for emergencies.

“Through the BPRP and extraordinary staff effort, the BESSD has significantly improved the timeliness of eligibility reviews and shortened the waiting period for individuals and families applying for SNAP benefits,” said BESSD Administrator Pankaj Bhanot.  “Over the past year, timeliness rates across the state have hovered between 95 and 97 percent, and the division continues to exceed federal requirements.”

As of September 2013, an estimated 192,160 Hawaii residents were receiving SNAP benefits.