In a major victory in the fight against hunger, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed to enter into a permanent injunction requiring the county to process and approve emergency CalFresh applications in a timely manner. The injunction—the result of a lawsuit filed by NLSLA and its partners—will impact thousands of vulnerable families experiencing dangerous food insecurity in Los Angeles County each month.
“We are heartened the county, in entering this agreement, acknowledges that hunger simply cannot wait,” said NLSLA Attorney and lead counsel, Lena Silver. “These are applications for emergency assistance, and the County must treat them with an appropriate level of urgency.”
The State of California requires counties to expedite food assistance applications for people with extremely low incomes who are homeless or whose housing costs exceed their resources or monthly income. But for more than a year, LA County consistently failed to process emergency applications for CalFresh—formerly known as food stamps—in under three days as required by law.
NLSLA, Western Center on Law and Poverty, and Public Interest Law Project filed the lawsuit on behalf of two organizations fighting hunger in Los Angeles—Hunger Action Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Community Action Network—along with an applicant affected by the delays. The groups presented the court with data showing the county had violated both state and federal law for months leading up to the lawsuit. In one month alone, the county failed to meet the state’s three-day timeline in 53 percent of eligible applications, leaving 7,600 individuals and families who qualify for expedited benefits without access to CalFresh. Some applicants had to wait more than a month to receive emergency food assistance.
Paul, a CalFresh applicant named in the lawsuit, was 17 years old when his father suffered a severe stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to continue his work as a day laborer. Paul should have received access to CalFresh in three days. Instead, the family heard nothing from the county for 17 days, at which time someone called and left a message. When Paul’s father tried to return the call, he got a “high call-volume” message and was disconnected. Then he received a letter stating Paul’s application had been denied.
Thanks to the work of NLSLA and its partners, Paul and his family—along with thousands of other vulnerable families across Los Angeles County—now have access to the food benefits they need and deserve.