In 1998, NYLAG, along with co-counsel National Center for Law and Economic Justice, The Legal Aid Society and Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, filed suit against the City and State of New York challenging policies and practices of the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) at “Job Centers” that discouraged, deterred, and/or prevented applicants from receiving public assistance, food stamps, and Medicaid. Randal Jeffrey, Director of NYLAG’s General Legal Services Unit, explains that, “Applications for any public benefits need to be processed correctly and in a timely manner because those applying are generally in need of immediate assistance. Before this suit, Job Centers were failing to do that.”

In 2005, the Court entered a final judgment against the City, ordering it to comply with specific provisions of state and federal law regarding public assistance, food stamps, and Medicaid application processing. Importantly, the District Court also ordered the City to provide regular monitoring reports to plaintiffs’ counsel.Through careful monitoring, NYLAG determined that the City had been failing to comply with the judgment on a number of matters. Particularly serious was HRA’s failure to process food stamp applications separately from joint public assistance applications when the public assistance application was denied. Under threat of plaintiffs litigating this noncompliance in Court, HRA agreed to a Court-ordered settlement that would restore lost food stamps to these clients.

As the first part of this relief, in March of 2011, HRA informed those affected that they would receive additional benefits, ranging from one hundred to a few thousand dollars, for benefits that were wrongfully denied from 2005-2006. In total, HRA made $4,433,962 worth of food stamps available. “This positive outcome occurred because of NYLAG’s vigilant monitoring,” Jeffrey stated. “We’re delighted that our clients, after being wrongfully denied important, life sustaining benefits, now have the ability to purchase enough food to feed their families.”