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Federal Court Approves Class Action Settlement Requiring Niagara County (NY) to Provide Benefits Faster

On July 9, 2013, NCLEJ and the Western New York Law Center filed a class action, McCoy v. Restaino, in the Western District of New York on behalf of residents of Niagara County who have applied, or are applying, for food stamps and/or cash public assistance. The complaint alleges that month after month, Niagara County fails to process hundreds of applications for food stamps and cash public assistance within the time periods prescribed by law, and fails to advise applicants of the delays and of their right to challenge the delays.

These benefits are crucial to the health and well-being of Niagara residents living in poverty. As a result of the County’s processing delays, Niagara’s poorest residents needlessly have faced, and continue to face, great hardship to put food on the table and make ends meet.

NCLEJ’s Jenny Pelaez and Joe Kelemen, Director, WNYLC and Katherine Ellis, WNYLC intern (pictured here) appeared before Judge Richard J. Arcara on June 17, 2014. The Court approved a consent decree which requires Niagara County to process all food stamps and/or cash assistance applications within the prescribed time limits and issue benefits timely to eligible families. The order also provides plaintiffs with reports and other information sufficient to monitor the County’s compliance until June 17, 2017 and establishes a mechanism for expedited informal review of individual cases of delay.

Tedde Tasheff, Laura Redman, and Jenny Pelaez of NCLEJ are co-counsel in this case with Joseph Kelemen of the Western New York Law Center.