Groups File Motion for Summary Judgement in Missouri SNAP Lawsuit
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 25, 2023
CONTACT: Katharine Deabler-Meadows | email@example.com
MISSOURI – The National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ), Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, and Stinson LLP filed a motion for summary judgment for their federal lawsuit to ensure access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for Missourians, including those with disabilities.
This motion for summary judgment asks the Court to rule that Missouri’s operation of SNAP violates the rights of low-income Missourians under the SNAP Act, the ADA, and the US Constitution If the motion is granted, a decision will be made regarding the lawsuit on the basis of existing law without going to trial.
If you are an individual or family seeking assistance, please contact Legal Services of Eastern Missouri at the Food Stamp Hotline at 314-256-8739 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri in February 2022 on behalf of Empower Missouri and two low-income Missourians against Robert Knodell, the Acting Director of the State’s Department of Social Services. In March 2022, two plaintiffs began receiving SNAP benefits following filing of the lawsuit. In July 2022, U.S. District Court Judge M. Douglas Harpool denied the State’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, allowing it to enter the discovery process. In February 2023, two new plaintiffs were added in the lawsuit.
If the U.S. District Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, the State will be ordered to comply with federal law and make procedural changes that would ensure access to SNAP for eligible Missourians.
The lawsuit alleges:
- All SNAP applicants are routed to a central call center, but the call center is drastically understaffed.
- All SNAP applicants must complete an interview to receive their benefits—using the overloaded call center.
- Call queues contain hundreds of people. Many SNAP applicants wait for hours only to be disconnected before having a chance to interview.
- In September, October, and December of 2021, more than 50% of rejected applications were denied because applicants could not complete an interview.
- DSS in-person office operations are insufficient, including limited hours and limited staffing,
- The situation is even worse for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires DSS to accommodate the disabilities of individuals who need one to access SNAP, but there is no way to request such accommodation without navigating the overloaded call center.
“This case has the potential to help tens of thousands of Missourians who have been wrongfully denied food benefits,” said Katharine Deabler-Meadows, Staff Attorney at NCLEJ. “People with disabilities are left without options when they have no way to request ADA accommodations without going through the overloaded call center. DSS must be compelled by the court to ensure access to SNAP for all eligible Missourians.”
“Everyone needs to eat and drink every single day,” said Katherine Holley, Staff Attorney with the Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. “Access to food is a human right, and Missourians need access to the SNAP benefits to stave off hunger and poverty.”
The National Center for Law and Economic Justice is a legal nonprofit organization that advances racial and economic justice for low-income families, individuals, and communities across the country through ground-breaking impact litigation, policy advocacy, and support for grassroots organizing. Founded in 1965, NCLEJ fights to protect access to critical benefits like food stamps, Medicaid, and childcare, protect low-wage workers’ rights and safety, advocates for the rights of people with disabilities, and fights unlawful debt collection.
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri provides free legal services to low-income Missourians in 21 counties of eastern Missouri, in order to improve lives, promote fairness, and create opportunities for those in need.
Stinson LLP is a full-service business law firm with nearly 450 attorneys who serve clients nationwide from its 12 offices in the Midwest, Mountain West, and Southwest, and in Washington, D.C. Specifically, Stinson provides a complete range of services to clients who need to interact with government at all levels, including businesses, trade associations, nonprofits, and citizens’ groups.