An encouraging new pilot program by Nebraska state government is adding an innovative supplement — job assistance — to its food stamp help for families in need.

Under the program, which has been tested since last year in Grand Island, families who sign up with the state Department of Health and Human Services for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits — food stamps, as they’re commonly known — can also apply for help from Nebraska Department of Labor employees.

Those state workers help the clients with résumé writing, understanding job search techniques and developing interview and on-the-job skills.

The goal is worthy: Boost these Nebraskans’ job skills and hopefully improve their financial circumstances and quality of life, so many can leave public assistance altogether.

The results so far are generally positive.

Of the 27 Grand Island residents who signed up for the help, 14 have been successful at getting jobs that pay better, have better benefits or offer more family-friendly work hours.

One person stopped needing food stamps altogether after moving from $492-a-month, part-time self-employment to a position paying $2,528 monthly. A single mother who had worked as a waitress making $900 a month with no benefits, moved to a job paying $2,700 a month and providing health insurance, a pension and other benefits.

The 14 clients on average boosted their income by $6,900 a year and cut their need for food assistance by 63 percent, HHS Chief Executive Officer Courtney Phillips said.

The program is now being expanded incrementally — to Hastings this month, Columbus in September, Norfolk in May — with hopes to take it statewide eventually. The work in Hastings will include a test run of an online service, to see how well the program can be implemented using computer-focused communication and assistance.

The pilot-project approach makes sense, since it allows complications to be identified and addressed.

This commendable, creative approach by the Ricketts administration deserves a salute.


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