A federal judge has issued preliminary injunction against the state of Hawaii for failing to process food stamp applications quickly enough. From Victor Geminiani, with the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice:

Today Federal District Court Judge David Alan Ezra issues a Preliminary Injunction Order against the Hawai`i State Department of Human Services (DHS) to correct the Department’s ongoing and persistent failure to process in a timely manner applications for Hawaii’s poorest families who seek Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

(The state’s) continuous and long term failure to appropriately process applications means that thousands of households are denied desperately needed assistance to help them feed their families and suffer hunger as a result.

Civil Beat previously reported that the state pays staff to retype every food stamp application despite the fact that the applications are already filled out via computer to begin with.

Monday’s order requires DHS to come in full compliance with federal timeliness requirements by December 12, 2012 and meet benchmarks of 80% compliance by April 30, 85% compliance by July 31, and 90% compliance by October 31, 2012.

DHS responded to the injunction saying it had already implemented a new benefits processing system:

Like the rest of the nation, the State of Hawaii has experienced a substantial increase in the number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) applications, and that has resulted in an applications backlog. To address the backlog cited in a federal injunction announced today, The Department of Human Services (DHS) and its Benefit, Employment and Support Services Division (BESSD) last year implemented a new benefits processing system.  The Business Process Re-engineering Program (BPRP) has significantly improved the timeliness of eligibility reviews and shortened the waiting period for applicants applying for SNAP benefits.  

Follow Civil Beat on Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign up for Civil Beat’s free daily newsletter.