Providing news and commentary on issues facing the City's anti-hunger community
Friday, May 02, 2008
Court Mandates HRA Compliance with Food Stamp Processing Deadlines
Applying for food stamps in New York is what one frustrated applicant called “a full-time job;” one made more complicated by city inefficiency. Following reports of widespread processing delays, an April 16 U.S. District Court settlement requires immediate city compliance with legal time frames for benefits processing at non-cash assistance (NCA) food stamp offices, while mandating state and federal court oversight of city compliance for at least four years. State and federal law require food stamp applications to be processed within 30 days of the original application date, or five days for the most urgent applications. A report published at the beginning of the year found that the Human Resources Administration, which processes food stamp applications, was failing to comply with these deadlines in eight percent of cases. NYCCAH Executive Director Joel Berg compared the HRA’s irresponsibility in these cases to a fire department who refused to put out eight percent of local fires. Said Berg, “One in twelve people cannot get desperately needed help.” The HRA attributes non-compliance to recent changes in administrative procedure and an increase in the number of applicants who do not receive public assistance and thus rely directly on NCA offices for benefits processing.But despite increased reliance on NCA offices, the total caseload of food stamps recipients has not swelled to numbers worthy of the kind of delays experienced by applicants. Enrollment rates continue to hover around 1.1 million, while many qualifying New Yorkers do not currently receive benefits. As part of the settlement, food stamp centers will also be required to post signs informing applicants of their right to receive benefits within these legally established deadlines.
The New York City Coalition Against Hunger represents New York City’s over 1,200 soup kitchens and food pantries and the 1.3 million low income New Yorkers who are forced to use them. The Coalition works to meet the immediate food needs of low-income New Yorkers and enact innovative solutions to help them move “beyond the soup kitchen” to self-sufficiency.