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Jan 25 2017 | 

Author: Daniela | 

Blog Category:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice filed a lawsuit in December over the state’s failure to provide food stamp benefits to needy families due in large part to its transition to a new computer system. From the ACLU press release:

The lawsuit argues that the “systematically inadequate and faulty statewide implementation of a new integrated computer system” designed to determine food stamp eligibility “continues to cause thousands of households to suffer the imminent risk of ongoing hunger as a result of being denied desperately needed assistance to help them feed their families.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court by ACLU of RI volunteer attorney Lynette Labinger and attorneys for NCLEJ, was filed as a class action on behalf of all food stamp applicants affected by DHS’ failure to process the applications in a timely manner. The two named plaintiffs have endured the Kafkaesque food stamp application process created by the new system, facing multiple delays in getting their food stamps due to computer glitches, lost paperwork, and other problems.

Plaintiff Mea Martinez, a mother of three children from Woonsocket, submitted her application over three months ago. Hearing nothing back after dropping off paperwork in late August, she went back to the DHS office one day in early October. She waited in line for four hours, but it was to no avail as she was unable to see anybody. Earlier this week, after months of unsuccessful efforts to obtain action from DHS, she finally heard back from a DHS worker and was told that she would have to start the process over if she did not appear that day with paperwork. She did so, but was then told her benefits could still not be processed because of computer issues. For the last three months, she has been going to food pantries to get critically needed food for her family of five....

The lawsuit argues that the state’s dilatory actions in processing applications and providing benefits to eligible households violate the federal food stamp law and its implementing regulations. The suit further claims as a violation of due process the state’s failure to provide formal notice to applicants whose benefits have been delayed of their right to request a hearing. Among other remedies, the suit seeks the issuance of a court order requiring applications to be timely processed. Notwithstanding the strict and obligatory federal timeline standards designed to protect needy families, the state does not expect to have the system completely fixed until June of 2017.

Read more on the ACLU's website.