In 2002, Mental Health Project (“MHP”) lawyers discovered that the New York City Human Resources Administration (“HRA”) was illegally terminating food stamps of people in desperate need, and filed this federal class action to address the problem. Despite years of warnings from the United States Department of Agriculture, HRA and the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance employed a computer program that automatically terminated the food stamps of welfare recipients who were approved for SSI (the federal benefit for people who are poor and severely disabled), despite their eligibility under the Food Stamps Act.
In 2007, working together with pro bono co-counsel at Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher LLP and lawyers from the Urban Justice Center’s Homelessness Outreach and Prevention Project, MHP won a very favorable settlement. In 2008, under the settlement, the City and State began repaying over $12 million in food stamps to tens of thousands of disabled New Yorkers just before Thanksgiving. The benefits of this class action are not merely retroactive, however. Due to Harris, roughly 6,000 additional people each year will now continue to receive food stamps when they switch from welfare to SSI.
MHP is joined in this suit with the Homelessness Outreach and Prevention Project of the UJC, with Pro bono co-counsel by Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher LLP.