New York City’s welfare agency failed to process more than half of all food stamp applications in a timely manner over a four-month period last year — and had nearly as bad of a clearance rate for cash assistance claims, Mayor Adams’ administration admitted in a report this week.
The mayor’s City Charter-mandated Preliminary Management Report was quietly released late Monday without public notice. It came on the heels of a group of low-income New Yorkers filing a lawsuit — as first reported by the Daily News — that accuses Adams’ administration of violating federal and state laws by failing to process their welfare claims within 30 days, leaving them in a state of “immense distress and hunger.”
Adams’ report, which covers performance indicators at all city agencies from July 1 through October 31, states that his Human Resources Administration processed just 42.3% of all applications for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, commonly known as food stamps, within the 30-day “timeliness” window. The timeliness rate for the agency’s processing of cash assistance benefits over the same time period was only slightly better, at 55%, according to the report.
The rates are significantly lower as compared to the same stretch in 2021.
Between July 2021 and October 2021, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Human Resources Administration processed 89.6% of all cash assistance applications within the required time frame, according to Adams’ management report. The equivalent rate for SNAP benefits over the same period was 71.2%, the report states.
[ NYC residents sue Adams administration for holding up their food stamps, cash assistance: ‘Hunger and immense distress’ ]
The Adams administration is also falling far short of its own processing targets. The administration has set as a goal for this fiscal year, which ends July 1, of processing 90.6% of all food stamp applications and 96% of all cash assistance applications within 30 days.
The mayor’s management report blamed the dismal rates last year on “unprecedented increases in applications” and the expiration of federal and state waivers that had extended how often benefits need to be renewed, as well as “reduced staffing levels due to attrition and retirements” at the Human Resources Administration.
Still, Adams’ first budget bid for the next fiscal year proposes permanently eliminating 773 vacant positions at the Human Resources Administration. The mayor has argued such spending cuts are justified to hedge against projected city budget deficits that could grow as large as $6 billion in coming years.
Asked for comment on the slow processing of food stamp and cash assistance claims, HRA spokeswoman Neha Sharma said her agency continues to “connect even more New Yorkers to these critical benefits than in recent years” every month amid a surge in applications.
She added that the Department of Social Services, which oversees her agency, still has 1,700 budgeted vacancies that it can “use to fill critical positions.”
An attorney representing the group suing the administration over the welfare dilemma said Adams’ management report should be a clarion call for increasing staffing at the welfare agency, not reducing it.
“At a time when the city’s performance for processing benefit applications stands at a dismal percentage, it’s truly shocking that Mayor Adams would consider further slashing the agencies charged with this responsibility,” said Judith Goldiner of the Legal Aid Society.
“It’s shameful that in our ‘progressive’ city, thousands of New Yorkers will go to bed hungry tonight simply because the city doesn’t care enough to provide the staff or resources to fix this self-manufactured problem.”