Court Orders DC to Timely Process SNAP Applications

Last week, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, in a lawsuit brought by NCLEJ, the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, and Hogan Lovells, held that the District of Columbia Department of Human Services must process Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits timely.

In the lawsuit, Garnett et. al. v. Zeilinger, we pointed to the District’s flawed implementation of its new computer system and other long-standing problems with its administration of SNAP benefits as causing catastrophic delays for applicants.  Last week’s decision will protect thousands of DC residents each year from losing SNAP and enable them to feed their families while applying for SNAP benefits.

The Court’s decision recognizes the irreparable harm caused by the District’s failure to timely process SNAP applications. SNAP is an essential safety net program that enables households to put food on the table when low wages or unemployment put affording sufficient food out of reach.  The Court also recognizes that the District is obligated to process all SNAP applications within federal guidelines—processing some, or even most, on time is insufficient.

In March, the court had certified three classes—one made up of people experiencing delays while in applying for SNAP application, one made up of people experiencing delays while renewing their eligibility for SNAP, and one made up of people who lost their SNAP benefits after the District failed to provide necessary notices. Class certification means that any relief or remedies ordered by the court will benefit all SNAP recipients in DC.

The Court will decide the rest of the case after a trial.

NCLEJ attorneys for the plaintiffs are Marc Cohan, Gina Mannix, Travis England, and Katie Deabler. For further information contact Travis England,