Timely Processing of SNAP Applications

As a result of a lawsuit filed by Hawai‘i Appleseed, the State of Hawai‘i has dramatically decreased the amount of time it takes for families to obtain critically important food assistance.

On November 17, 2010, Hawai‘i Appleseed, then Lawyers for Equal Justice, filed a federal lawsuit against the Hawai‘i Department of Human Services (DHS) to correct the Department’s ongoing and persistent failure to process in timely manner applications for Hawai‘i’s poorest families who seek Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Defendant’s failure to process applications in a timely manner meant that thousands of households were waiting for four months and longer before being determined eligible to receive this benefit, leaving federal dollars on the table.

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 came amid the economic downturn at a time when more residents of Hawai‘i were seeking assistance, especially food stamps. The lawsuit requested that the federal court require the state to develop and implement a corrective action plan that would 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.

On November 16, 2011, 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. As a result of the court order, the State has dramatically improved its processing times and come into compliance with federal requirements. Hawai‘i Appleseed continues to monitor the State's compliance with the order.

Are You Still Waiting for Food Stamps? flyer

Press Releases

In the News