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Judge Orders State To Do Better On Food Stamp Applications

by | May 15, 2013 5:30am
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CTNJ file photo

Protest last summer outside the DSS offices in Hartford

A federal judge issued a permanent injunction against the Department of Social Services this week ordering it to comply with federal guidelines for processing food stamp applications within 30 days.

In the injunction, U.S. District Court Judge Vanessa Bryant told the department to “process applications for, and provide, food stamps in a timely manner, as required by the FSA [Food Stamp Act].” She said the state admitted that “there are systemic deficiencies in the manner in which it processes food stamps, including without limitation routine loss of applications, loss of verification documentation, and the failure to timely schedule interviews.”

Under the Food Stamp Act the state is required to process applications within 30 days, but in many cases has exceeded that time period. That prompted Greater Hartford Legal Aid and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice to file a class action lawsuit against the state last March.

According to information provided to the court, between January 2010 and February 2012, the percent of applications pending over 30 days has ranged from 18 percent in August 2011 and May 2011 to 40 percent in November 2011. In addition, the percentage of all decisions made a month late ranged from 20.5 percent in July 2011 to as many as 32 percent in December 2011.

Between August 2010 and February 2012, the percentage of expedited applications pending and overdue at the end of the month ranged from 95 percent for December 2011 to 72 percent in June 2011.

“We are very pleased that Judge Bryant took strong action to ensure that eligible Connecticut residents will be able to get basic nutrition and sustenance in a timely way,” Lucy Potter, a Greater Hartford Legal Aid attorney, said Tuesday in a press release.

In Bryant’s preliminary injunction issued in December, she said “the low levels of timeliness rates are persuasive evidence that the state has failed to timely provide food stamps in compliance with the unambiguous mandates.”

In her permanent injunction issued Monday, Bryant said the state shall report to attorneys at Greater Hartford Legal Aid “the reason for the failure to timely determine eligibility of each applicant,” if it fails to issue the food stamps on time. By the end of August, Bryant wants the state process 70 percent of all food stamp applications in the 30-day window. By the end of October that number will go up to 80 percent, and by the end of December Bryant expects it to reach 90 percent compliance.

By next year, Bryant expects the percentage of applications pending more than 30 days shall not exceed 10 percent of all applications and wants those numbers to be sustained for six consecutive months.

At the moment there are nearly 400,000 Connecticut residents in over 214,000 households receiving food stamp benefits, according to the Department of Social Services. 

“We’re working hard on a number of fronts to improve timeliness of application processing,” David Dearborn, a spokesman for the department, said Tuesday.

Lawyers for the department are still reviewing Bryant’s decision, but Dearborn said it has hired more than 200 new staff members to implement technological improvements that will allow for faster processing of applications for both food stamps and Medicaid benefits.

The state is currently piloting a document imaging service in the Waterbury area and will be expanding it statewide. The document imaging will replace the piles of paperwork and speed up the process while ensuring accuracy, Dearborn said.

Applications for Medicaid benefits also have suffered under the state’s antiquated technology system. A similar case regarding the processing of those applications is being heard today in U.S. District Court in Hartford by Judge Alvin Thompson.

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(3) Archived Comments

posted by: KimberlyW | May 15, 2013  1:26pm

The next Lawsuit with DSS.

The Connecticut Department of Social Services Responsible Fatherhood program violates the Title IX statute by offering services to men that are not offered to women at all or on an equal basis. By doing so, the program discriminates against women and denies them benefits on the basis of gender.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states that “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a) (emphasis added). HHS’s implementing regulation,  45 C.F.R. § 86.31, states that federally assisted education programs may not on the basis of sex “[t]reat one person differently from another in determining whether such person satisfies any requirement or condition for the provision of such aid, benefit, or service,” § 86.31(b)(1), or “[p]rovide different aid, benefits, or services,” § 86.31(b)(2), or “[d]eny any person such aid,  benefit, or service,” § 86.31(b)(3), or “[s]ubject any person to separate or different rules of behavior, sanctions, or other treatment,” § 86.31(b)(4).

posted by: KimberlyW | May 15, 2013  1:28pm

The government should not be in the business of promoting something that should remain a personal choice of the individuals involved. Not only that, the government should not be in the position of choosing which man a mother will marry, which is exactly what these bills, initiatives, and resolutions propose to do. These women are encouraged to marry the fathers of their children over and above any other men who may be more appropriate and suitable for them.

That fatherhood programs have dealt insufficiently with parenting, poverty, employment, and economic issues. Proper attention is not given to the fathers’ personal histories, including addictions, history of incarceration for serious crimes, character defects, domestic violence and child abuse. These programs discriminate against mothers, especially poor mothers. They denigrate family forms outside that of the traditional, two-parent married household. In particular, single and divorced mother homes are debased by the dissemination of specious “fatherlessness” statistics

posted by: KimberlyW | May 15, 2013  1:31pm

It promotes marriage only for certain people, excluding lesbian and gay couples; it serves as a smokescreen to give the appearance of addressing poverty while actually drawing money away from proven methods of poverty reduction; it is an attempt to elevate a patriarchal version of family structure; it denigrates the role and abilities of single mothers; and it furthers the stereotype of welfare recipients as socially and economically handicapped without the presence of a male provider. Meanwhile, the real risks faced by women from violent male partners continue to receive too little attention, and right wing organizations argue each year that battered women’s shelters should be defunded because they destroy families