that a large backlog of food stamp applications causing undue hardship to
hundreds of poor residents continues to exist, the ACLU of Rhode Island today announced
it was re-staffing a telephone hotline for people to call if they are having
trouble with their SNAP (food stamp) application getting processed in a timely
manner due to the state’s year-long UHIP computer fiasco.
emphasized that the hotline is only for SNAP application processing delay
complaints, and not for unrelated problems involving SNAP or for UHIP problems
involving other state programs.
ACLU staff will
take contact and other information from callers whose complaints fall within
this scenario and forward them along to the attorneys for the plaintiffs for
possible expedited resolution. The hotline number is 1-877-231-7171. If
the person receives voice mail, they should leave their name and phone number
and confirm that the complaint involves a UHIP-related SNAP processing problem.
The hotline is a
supplement to a pending class-action lawsuit filed last year by the ACLU and
the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, charging that the ongoing
UHIP system failures violate the constitutional and statutory rights of Rhode
Islanders entitled to timely decisions on their SNAP applications under the
law. Back in February, a court order in the case established a timetable
mandating steady improvement every month in the agency’s processing of SNAP
applications and provisions of timely benefits. The court order also mandated
that the plaintiffs be given a monthly report on the agency’s level of
compliance with those benchmarks, with full compliance scheduled to be achieved
by August 2017. However, the agency has never come close to reaching those
monthly benchmarks, and stopped issuing monthly reports because the data are so
unreliable. In light of the situation, U.S. District Judge William Smith
appointed a “special master” earlier this month to help address the current
state of affairs.
law requires the state to decide SNAP applications within 30 days from the date
the application is submitted. SNAP applicants with little or no money may be
eligible to have their application decided within 7 days (expedited
processing). However, those deadlines are still being routinely violated
because of the agency’s system-wide failures.
Although the UHIP
system is causing problems for people seeking benefits in other areas, such as
health care and Medicaid, the lawsuit and hotline deal only with delays in
processing SNAP applications.
the ACLU and NCLEJ's pending lawsuit can be found here:
Steven Brown – (401) 831-7171