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CityLimits: City Hall Announces Near-Elimination of Benefits Case Backlog As Challenges Persist

Abby Biberman, an Associate Director of NYLAG’s Public Benefit Unit, recently highlighted in CityLimits the harsh reality faced by many SNAP and cash assistance applicants. Despite the claims of progress by Adams’ administration in reducing backlogs, the experiences of those being denied tell a different story.  

“Mayor Eric Adams’ administration on Monday announced significant progress toward eliminating its backlogs of cash and food assistance cases, ahead of a court-ordered deadline of March 31.  

“Yet while advocates who specialize in public benefits have called for these backlogs to be cut, they say New Yorkers who rely on this support are not out of the woods, and continue to have a hard time with their applications, despite an overall increase in recipients. 

“For example, attorneys in court with the administration say they plan to explore possible connections between the decreased cash assistance backlog and a surge last year in such applications being denied for procedural reasons—mostly for failure to complete a mandatory phone interview, which users say can be difficult due to lengthy wait times. 

“’We can certainly be pleased with them meeting their deadlines and also simultaneously concerned that more people are being denied and that they’re not maintaining a phone system that’s accessible,’ said Abby Biberman, associate director of the Public Benefits Unit at New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) 

“Along with Biberman of NYLAG, Lundgren is representing benefits recipients in the federal lawsuit Forest v. City of New York. A preliminary injunction in that case set DSS’ backlog-clearing deadlines.  

“Eliminating the backlog was just one, preliminary objective of the lawsuit, according to Lundgren and Biberman. Their team is still collecting discovery from the city, and plans to explore possible issues with the interview process, as well as how DSS accepts and tracks documents that applicants must submit along with their applications.” 

Read the full piece by Emma Whitford in CityLimits from March 4, 2024. 

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