New Yorkers sue Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance

This article was originally published in Spectrum News 1. Read it here.

New Yorkers have filed a class action lawsuit against the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) alleging delays in hearings, which attorneys argue slows down access to essential needs.

“The legal required time frame for a fair hearing on [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] benefits, food benefits, is 60 days from the time it is requested to the time it should be resolved and a decision should be made. And on cash assistance, it’s 90 days,” said Saima Akhtar, attorney with the National Center for Law and Economic Justice.

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers receive public assistance every month, but applications for assistance sometimes turn into appeals from local social service agencies, which attorneys say are taking too long to get in front of a judge.

Spectrum News 1 reached out to the OTDA and a spokesperson said they do not comment on pending litigation.

The class action lawsuit against the OTDA claims tens of thousands of New Yorkers are waiting months or years for decisions that determine their eligibility for essential benefits.

“The households are not stable and they are suffering,” said Akhtar. “And these are people’s neighbors, and siblings, and cousins and grandparents. We trust our government to meet its obligations and to do its job for the general well-being.”

Akhtar said the goal of the lawsuit is to speed up this process and get people the help they need within a reasonable time frame.