Counties across the state are blowing past legal deadlines to process SNAP applications, leaving families struggling to eat. The delays may be about to get even worse.
Alex Lubben · May 15, 2023
Orange County, New York — Alma Garcia, a 31-year-old mother of five in Middletown, called a cab she couldn’t afford to take her from one public benefits office to another, on the other side of the county.
Garcia applied to renew her food stamps last October. The local social service agency lost her paperwork and told her to go to another office. Then it closed her case and asked her to submit a new application. Then it transferred her to a new caseworker.
Five months went by before the agency finally approved her new application — without making up for the lost time. She borrowed money throughout the fall and winter to pay for groceries, and the resulting pile of debt couldn’t come at a worse moment: She lost her longtime job as a receptionist in a dentist’s office when her boss retired last year.
“Where am I going to get food for my kids?” she asked. Her youngest is three years old.
Across the state, tens of thousands of New Yorkers who have applied for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (snap), commonly known as food stamps, have had their benefits delayed for more than 30 days, in violation of federal law, documents obtained by New York Focus show.
And as pandemic-era policies that streamlined benefits application processes expire, the backlog could get worse.
New York City is currently facing a lawsuit over its skyrocketing delays. But the problem extends across the state, where it has attracted little attention — in part because its scope has not previously been known.