Low-Income New Yorkers Continue To Wait in Long Lines Hoping To Receive Help
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 01, 2012

The New York City Council held hearings yesterday on the problem of low-income New Yorkers waiting for hours in long lines to receive help. After the hearing, Judith Goldiner, the Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit of The Legal Aid Society, told the Wall Street Journal that the long lines haven't yet been eliminated. "HRA has still not managed to solve the problem—it has only managed to move the lines inside," she said in a statement. The city is also still requiring people seeking benefits to show up at appointments that are "entirely unnecessary," she said.

Read the full testimony (PDF)



The Wall Street Journal
Wait Persists For Food Aid
By Michael Howard Saul
February 1, 2012

Although the ranks of food-stamp recipients in New York City have swelled significantly since the economic downturn, the number of case workers has not kept pace with the increase, a city official said Tuesday.

At the end of 2007, before the recession, there was one worker for every 549 food-stamp cases; at the end of last year—when there were more than 1.8 million food-stamp recipients in the city—the ratio was one worker for every 852 cases.

Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that at some overwhelmed centers, recipients were arriving long before the doors opened and waiting for hours in long lines that snaked onto sidewalks.

Patricia Smith, deputy commissioner of the city's Human Resources Administration, said Tuesday at a City Council hearing called to address the problem that officials had hoped a more automated benefits system would ease the crunch.

But applicants and recipients didn't use the system as planned, she said.

She said the city had taken steps to eliminate the long lines that gather once centers have opened. Other than people who line up before the centers open, there were no lines outside the centers this past month, she said. But under questioning from the council, Ms. Smith couldn't say whether the administration had reduced the wait time or just moved people indoors to wait. "This is a work in progress," she said.

After the hearing, Judith Goldiner, an attorney at the Legal Aid Society, said the long lines haven't yet been eliminated. "HRA has still not managed to solve the problem—it has only managed to move the lines inside," she said in a statement. The city is also still requiring people seeking benefits to show up at appointments that are "entirely unnecessary," she said.

Council Member Gale Brewer, a Manhattan Democrat, said the council has received reports of a food-stamp center in the Bronx with an average applicant wait time of four to five hours. At a center in Brooklyn, people stand in line for seven hours a day, Ms. Brewer said.

"More has to be done to solve this problem," she said.

The city is scheduled to hire 49 additional food-stamp eligibility workers and 50 employment specialists in February, Ms. Smith said.