September 23, 2014

Lawsuit claims state delays food stamp applications

A lawsuit has been filed, claiming the state has unnecessarily delayed distributing food stamps to needy Nebraska families.

Nebraska Appleseed and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice has filed suit against the Department of Health and Human Services, claiming the state agency has continually delayed processing applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps.

James Goddard with Nebraska Appleseed says federal law requires prompt processing.

“Folks have waited longer than the federal and state required timeframes and they’re facing going hungry and other potential problems,” Goddard tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Tami Leiting-Hall, a fast food worker in Lincoln who has had her application for food stamps delayed. The lawsuit alleges hundreds of Nebraska families face the same hardship.

Goddard hopes the lawsuit prompts changes.

“There have been persistent problems with the ACCESS Nebraska system for years and the consequence is you see potentially hundreds of households every month not being able to get the food assistance they need in a timely way,” according to Goddard.

The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska against two Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) officials in their official capacities.

Molly McCleery and James Goddard of Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest as well as Gina Mannix, Marc Cohan, and Jenny Pelaez of the National Center for Law and Economic Justice represent Leiting-Hall in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is Leiting-Hall v. Winterer. It has been filed in the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska.

Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this article.