LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska’s state auditor has unearthed a variety of problems with the way Nebraska doles out welfare and monitors the program, including $11,000 in payments for six months’ worth of cab rides, even though the welfare recipient owned a car.
Even though the problems were found during audits that are still in progress, State Auditor Mike Foley sent a letter to the state Department of Health and Human Services notifying it of the findings so far “due to their significance and the urgent need for corrective action.”
The auditors questioned costs in about half of the 20 cases it tested in the Employment First program, which people must participate in before getting welfare, or what’s now called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. TANF is a federal block grant program for low-income families with children that tries to shepherd people back to work while providing cash assistance.
This year, 6,441 Nebraskans qualified for a program in which they can get up to $222 per month, plus $71 for additional household members, to help with transportation, clothing, rent and education costs. Recipients can have resources of no more than $6,000 to be eligible for the program.
Auditors found a lack of monitoring of the program by DHHS contractors, timely eligibility reviews and said even after the department was notified of fraud allegations, it failed to follow up.
Before receiving monthly cash assistance, welfare recipients must search for jobs, education or training, but auditors found the only monitoring of contractors was a monthly random sample review to see if work participation rates were properly calculated.
Auditors found in 20 test cases that DHHS failed to follow its own rules and regulations and properly monitor contractors, causing more than $61,000 in questionable expenses out of a total $79,251 in supportive service payments.
Auditors also examined 20 cases to ensure the recipients were needy, and income wasn’t properly calculated in 11 of 20 cases; they also found nearly $7,800 in overpayments.
Auditors also said there was a lack of procedures to determine if a recipient was properly reporting resources, since caseworkers aren’t required to verify resources worth less than $1,500, regardless of how many resources they had. Recipients cannot have more than $4,000 in resources for single person, $6,000 for two or more.