More than half of New York City food stamp applicants are forced to wait until their benefits arrive because the understaffed Department of Human Resources staff is not keeping up with demand. The state’s Department of Temporary and Disability Assistance has refused to issue a waiver to reduce the backlog.
Tens of thousands of low-income New Yorkers could be living without food stamps this holiday season, as the city’s social services agencies are understaffed.
More than half of New York City’s food stamp applicants are staffed by the city’s beleaguered Human Resources Administration (HRA), which has cut its workforce by 20% and a new budget mandated by Mayor Eric Adams. Faced with cuts, we are left with vital benefits awaiting. Process documents and issue approvals. As City Limits reports, delays have exacerbated the problem as parents are forced to pawn jewelry, take out loans and rack up credit card debt to support their children. is on track.
The HRA will review your application and within 30 days will officially distribute food stamps electronically, known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Its timely processing rate, considered a “key indicator” of agency performance in the mayor’s annual management report, plummeted from about 92% in fiscal 2021 to just over 60% last year, he said. Officials say he is now at 46.3%.
The HRA has asked states to waive the temporary suspension of recertification requirements for food stamp recipients so that agency staff can deal with a large backlog of new applications, including 50,000 in October alone. did. But New York’s Temporary Disability Assistance Agency (OTDA) has refused to relax its rules, even after issuing similar waivers early in the COVID pandemic. At this time, tens of thousands of newly unemployed New Yorkers began applying for food stamps.
The OTDA, which is run by the city’s former deputy director of social services Daniel Teets, said it did not trust the HRA to process the application correctly, putting the state at risk of penalties and losing federal money.
OTDA spokesperson Anthony Farmer said the HRA would not intervene until the HRA was staffed. As of that date, it had more than 2,600 vacancies.)
“We are committed to working with the City of New York to help them overcome the processing challenges they continue to face,” Farmer said. must take proactive steps to process applications in a timely manner and ensure adequate staffing according to long-standing federal standards.”
The federal government audits a sample of SNAP applications to ensure that approved households do not exceed the amount allowed based on their income. About 1.7 million New York City residents in about 1 million households receive several food stamps that vary in value based on income and family size.
Lawyers and case managers who work with food stamp applicants who are forced to wait for benefits say OTDA’s reasoning makes no sense when New Yorkers are suffering.
Adriana Mendoza, benefits supervisor for the Safety Net Project at the Center for Urban Justice, said, “States are more concerned about error rates than hundreds of thousands of people not eating because of delays. “The city is in crisis and must take responsibility for fixing this, but states denying waivers are not going to help.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday that the state will use federal funds to increase food stamp amounts for all recipients, while Mendoza is either blocked or waiting for benefits to arrive. He said it would have little effect on his family.
Kathleen Kelleher, a staff attorney in the Legal Aid Society’s Civil Law Reform Unit, said the state’s response to the crisis was “shocking.”
“We’re talking about benefits for real people,” says Kelleher. “I don’t think it makes sense for them not to intervene.”
At a city council hearing on Dec. 15, Kelleher said in more than 30 years of working with food stamp recipients, he had never seen a delay this big. She asked her OTDA to issue recertification waivers, develop an HRA corrective action plan, and release specific data on new applicants, recertifications, and delays across New York City and the state. rice field.
“If they’re not issuing these 100% federally funded benefits, they’re ruining New York City’s recovery from COVID,” she said. People need their benefits now.”
The city’s Department of Social Services, which oversees the HRA, said it would continue to work to process a “record number” of SNAP applications without state support to lighten the workload.
“We continue to effectively support vulnerable New Yorkers who are still very shaken by the economic fallout of the pandemic, using every tool at our disposal.” We need to provide solutions as part of our shared mission to support. ”
SNAP is considered the country’s most important hunger programme, providing assistance to approximately 41.5 million participants in 2021. The program also has a significant economic impact, as beneficiaries typically consume the profits at their local grocery store.
Food Stamps are credited to a debit card that the recipient can use to purchase food at grocery stores, bodega’s and farmers’ markets. Applicants who have already been approved for her SNAP benefits will need to recertify on a regular basis, and any processing delays can mean households suddenly lose access to the funds they rely on.
A Midwood father of seven, Simon didn’t give his last name for fear of being judged by his neighbors in a conservative, close-knit community. He said he was forced to submit the same paperwork over and over again to prove his family’s eligibility.
“What is this business that always presents the same birth certificate and social security information every six months? What’s the point,” he said. “You don’t have a different child every six months. They’ve put everyone through hell. It’s a waste of time, a waste of resources, and it accomplishes nothing.”
Simon, a freelance artist, said the recertification requirement was overly punitive for New Yorkers trying to make a living.
“I’m not doing it because I want to. It can’t be helped,” he said. “People in this program need help, but they don’t get it.”
Bianca Herrera, a 26-year-old Bronx resident, said she spent more than a year trying to get her family’s food stamps back after they were cut off due to HRA mismanagement. Herrera, a single mother of her two young daughters, had tried multiple times to recertify, but the Safety Net Project case didn’t help her until her manager helped her get her benefits back. Ignored.
“It all took a toll on me. It was really devastating, wondering how I could buy food every day,” she said.
Several cities, states, and even federal legislators are beginning to seek solutions to the HRA’s administrative crisis. US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told City Limits that she was “extremely concerned about the thousands of New Yorkers waiting for their SNAP benefits to arrive.”
“This is a safety net program aimed at helping people and improving their lives, and no one should be forced to sell valuables to support their families,” she said in a statement. The office added that it is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which runs SNAP, to “expedite the process and help these families get the money to put food on the table.”
The USDA, which operates SNAP, said it was up to OTDA to issue the recertification waiver.
Another problem exacerbates the situation for low-income New Yorkers. About 4,000 of her SNAP recipients have their rewards stolen by a skimming device attached to her card reader.
In a letter to Tietz on Thursday, Social Services Council President Linda Rosenthal and MP Marcela Mitaynes urged OTDA to take action to provide refunds to victims of food stamp theft and reduce the HRA’s administrative burden. I asked you to take action.
“The increase in benefits theft and the significant delays in processing SNAP applications have made it very clear that the New York City Department of Human Resources is not prepared to manage these crises.” wrote two members of parliament. “[We] We hope that OTDA will take swift action to provide assistance to families in need, as other states have done. ”