timely processing of SNAP applications
On November 16, 2011, nearly a full year after filing its federal class action case against the Hawaii Department of Human Services, LEJ took an important step forward in this case. Federal District Court Judge Ezra issued an Order for Preliminary Injunction, mandating the State of Hawai`i take immediate action to improve delivery systems and meet Federal guidelines for timely processing of food stamp eligibility determinations.
Timely access to food contributes to the health and well being of all individual in Hawai`i. Lawyers for Equal Justice seeks a permanent injunction to stop the State of Hawai`i from failing for many years to meet federal requirements to provide timely access to food stamps.
On November 17, 2010, Lawyers for Equal Justice filed a federal lawsuit against the Hawaii Department of Human Services (DHS) to correct the Department’s ongoing and persistent failure to process in timely manner applications for Hawaii’s poorest families who seek Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Defendant’s failure to process applications in a timely manner means that thousands of households wait for four months and longer before being determined eligible to receive this Federal Benefit, and takes away Federal dollars from our state economy.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as Food Stamps, are intended to alleviate hunger and malnutrition in low-income households by providing fully federally-funded benefits to help them purchase food. Participating states are required to comply with federal SNAP requirements, created by the US Department of Agriculture, which administers the program at the federal level. Under those requirements the Department must process and provide SNAP benefits within 30 days of the filing of applications by eligible applicants.
The lawsuit comes amid the economic downturn at a time when more residents of Hawaii are seeking assistance, especially food stamps. As of last May, there were 139,816 people on food stamps throughout the state which represents an 18 percent increase in participation over the previous year. According to the Department, as of last May only 79.8 percent of food stamp applicants statewide were processed in a timely manner. That is down from 87 percent in July, 2009. The increase in untimely dispositions is particularly pronounced on the Island of Maui and parts of the Big Island and Maui. From October 2009 to February 2010, untimely processing of all SNAP application increased from 47.28% to 52.8% on Maui, and 20.39% to 38.4% in Kona.
Plaintiffs include all Hawai`i residents who applied for SNAP benefits that have filed application in Hawaii since August 8th, 2008 and have not had their applications processed within 30 days. The lawsuit requests that the federal court require the state to develop and implement a corrective action plan that will ensure that all SNAP applications are processed and SNAP benefits provided to all eligible individuals within the 30 day time frame required by federal law.
- Federal Court Injunction issued against the State of Hawai`i for failure to process food stamps in a timely manner, January 23, 2012
- State of Hawaii sued for food stamp delays, November 17, 2010
In the News
- Clearinghouse Review Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, National Center for Law and Economic Justice's SNAP Application Delay Litigation Project. Sept-October 2012, Vol 46, Numbers 5-6
- Hawaii says it's addressing food stamp backlog, Associated Press, Honolulu Star Advertiser, January 25, 2012
- Judge orders state to correct food stamp processing problems, Honolulu Star Advertiser, January 24, 2012
- Federal Judge Slaps Hawaii with injunction for food stamp delays, Honolulu Civil Beat, January 24, 2012
- State Sued for Food Stamp Delays, KHON 2, November 17, 2010
- Lawsuit seeks to force Hawaii to issue food stamps more quickly, by Mark Niesse, Honolulu Star Advertiser, November 18, 2010
- Hawaii sued to hasten food stamp delivery, by Mark Niesse, The Maui News, November 19, 2010