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Judge blocks attempt to collect alleged SNAP overpayment

December 24, 2019 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A federal judge has signed a temporary restraining order Monday preventing Rhode Island from forcing food stamp recipients to repay alleged overpayments.

“The proposed order temporarily bars the state from issuing any more of the demand (repayment) letters based on purported agency or household errors, and further bars (the Department of Human Services) from processing any SNAP benefit reductions for individuals who have already received the notices,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island said. “The order also puts on hold any pending administrative appeals filed by recipients contesting the overpayment determinations”

The lawsuit, brought by the ACLU, is in connection to the state’s Department of Human Service’s attempt to collect nearly $2,000 in alleged overpayments made more than four years ago from a Woonsocket woman, the Providence Journal reported.

According to the ACLU, Carmen Correa received a notice on Sept. 23 giving her “a month so sign an over payment agreement with the state” or face “harmful” cuts to her monthly benefit payment of $350.

“Ms. Correa’s only income comes from child support and SNAP benefits. ... Without full SNAP benefits, Ms. Correa will have great difficulty in feeding herself and her niece. She is now very worried that her SNAP benefits will be reduced and that she will not be able to pay her utility bills and will have her utilities shut off,” according to court documents.

Officials with the human services department said they’re hoping for a resolution to the matter.

“We are confident that our claims process is compliant with applicable regulations and look forward to resolution of this lawsuit,” Department of Human Services Director Courtney Hawkins said.