Updated: Thursday, 06 Dec 2012, 8:17 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 06 Dec 2012, 8:17 PM EST
HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) -- Department of Social Services offices like the one in Hartford are among the busiest places in most cities, a reflection of the tough economic times. Nearly a quarter of a million Connecticut residents currently qualify for Food Stamps.
And now a judge here at Federal Court in Hartford says the agency takes much too long to process Food Stamp applications in violation of federal law. The ruling comes just a week after boxes of Food Stamp applications dating back three years were found unopened.
Greg Bass of Greater Hartford Legal Aid helped bring the lawsuit.
"The percentages vary from twenty percent untimely per month to forty percent to even in cases of expedited Food Stamps in particularly destitute households in the seventies," Bass said.
The Federal law governing Food Stamps is very specific about how fast applications must be approved and the aid distributed.
"If you're eligible for Food Stamps, as a household, you're entitled to get them within thirty days," Bass said. "If you're an especially destitute household, under egregious poverty circumstances, you're entitled to get those Food Stamps within seven days."
Dave Dearborn of D.S.S. says a more than 20-year-old computer system is partially to blame.
"We're adding staff, thanks to the Malloy Administrations' investment in our infrastructure. We're adding technological improvements that haven't taken affect quite yet," Dearborn said.
But in many cases people have to go to the offices because they just can't get through on the phone.
"We have twelve phone systems that are really antiquated so the public has, as you know, a hard time getting in touch with us sometimes. That's all going to change in a matter of months," Dearborn said.
The Agency must appear before the judge December 21 to explain how they can speed this up. A similar case by the New Haven Legal Assistance organization has found that Medicaid applications are also being processed too slowly.