Nebraska Appleseed and NCLEJ Challenge Unlawful Delay of Food Assistance in Nebraska

In August 2014, NCLEJ and Nebraska Appleseed filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of a working, single mother who has been unlawfully delayed from receiving urgent and necessary help providing food for her family through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The suit (Leiting-Hall v. Winterer) comes as a result of continued delays by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in processing SNAP applications and delivering food assistance. DHHS is supposed to process these applications within a certain timeframe — given the urgent need for a program like SNAP — but has consistently failed to meet this most basic requirement of federal law. These failures have forced thousands of Nebraska families to face hunger and inadequate food access.

“The Department of Health and Human Services administers SNAP through its ACCESS Nebraska system. Unfortunately, the ACCESS Nebraska system continues to have systemic problems, which has resulted in households across the state being unable to access food programs in a timely manner as required by federal and state law,” said James Goddard, Director of the Economic Justice Program at Nebraska Appleseed. “It is crucial that ACCESS Nebraska work efficiently to serve the needs of its clients quickly, otherwise many Nebraska families will be faced with the instability of not being able to meet their basic needs.”

The suit was filed on behalf of Tami Leiting-Hall, whose household has faced delays well beyond the required legal timeframes to receive food assistance under SNAP. It alleges hundreds of Nebraska households have also waited longer than the legally required timeframes for receiving SNAP and requests that DHHS administer SNAP in a manner that complies with federal law.

“When DHHS fails to provide SNAP in a timely way, children and families face hunger and uncertainty,” said Jenny Pelaez, Senior Attorney at the National Center for Law and Economic Justice. “This class-action suit aims to ensure Nebraska families who are eligible to receive SNAP know where their next meal is coming from, making our communities healthier and stronger.”

The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska against two Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services officials in their official capacities.

The plaintiff, Tami Leiting-Hall and other households similarly situated, are represented by Molly McCleery and James Goddard of Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest and Gina Mannix, Marc Cohan, and Jenny Pelaez of the National Center for Law and Economic Justice.

Press Release (August 2014)

UPDATE: Read the notice of proposed settlement here.

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