ATLANTA (CN) - A federal judge certified a class of Georgia residents who claim the state denied them benefits by delaying processing their applications for food stamps.
Four Georgians sued the Commissioner for the Georgia Department of Human Services last year, alleging that the department failed to comply with federal deadlines in processing applications for food stamps.
In some cases, the state denied applicants the chance to comply with application procedures, which allegedly resulted in rejection of their applications. The department also failed to send notices denying applications and to provide reasons for the denial, the complaint says.
The plaintiffs asked the court to certify their class in March 2014, claiming to represent all Georgia residents who have applied for food stamps since January 2013 whose applications were not timely processed. The class also includes renewal applicants and residents who have yet to file applications, according to the lawsuit.
The state did not object to the proposed class or to the plaintiffs' chosen counsel for the class.
U.S. District Judge William Duffey Jr. approved the class Monday, finding that the named plaintiffs' claims are typical of the claims of the proposed class. The plaintiffs alleged that they applied for food stamps in Georgia and that their applications were unlawfully delayed or denied without proper notice. These allegations are common to all proposed class members, Duffey noted.
What's more, classes of public benefits applicants seeking to challenge a policy or practice in the administration of food stamps or other benefits are routinely certified, the March 23 ruling states.
Additionally, the attorneys chosen to represent the class are experienced in class actions and public benefits law and can adequately protect the interests of the class, according to the 15-page order.
The class is represented by David Webster of Atlanta, attorneys with the National Center for Law and Economic Justice and DLA Piper attorney Mark Grantham.
The Food Stamps Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, provides food coupons for needy individuals. Food stamps can be exchanged like money at authorized stores. The federal government pays for the amount of the benefits received, while states pay the costs of determining eligibility and distributing the stamps. State public assistance agencies run the program.
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