NEW YORK (PIX11) — A 71-year-old woman who lives alone in Brooklyn worries she may fall asleep one day and never wake up. 

Maria Forest’s fear stems from a dietary change she had to make when she inexplicably stopped receiving her monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, according to court papers. She has diabetes and, without the extra money, she’s been forced to buy food that isn’t as healthy. Forest, who has a spinal injury and uses a walker, has also been forced to choose between buying pain relief medication and paying for food. 

She is one of several plaintiffs in a suit filed against New York City alleging that the city left thousands of SNAP recipients scrambling because of delayed benefit payments. The Brooklyn woman last received benefits in September. 

Since then, she’s called various agency numbers up to 20 times a day trying, without success, to get help. 

New York City’s Department of Social Services has a 20% vacancy rate, according to a December 2022 report from the city’s comptroller.  DSS/Human Resources Administration handle SNAP benefits in the five boroughs. 

“Thousands of low-income New Yorkers go without SNAP and cash benefits to which they are entitled because their applications and recertifications fall through the cracks of Defendants’ broken automated administrative processing systems,” New York Legal Assistance Group wrote in the suit against the city. “Both applications and recertifications are impeded and blocked altogether by the online processing system, and there are no reliable and accessible alternatives to the online system. Even when households are able to submit documents, those documents are often lost or ignored, and household members cannot reach the agency via the outdated and overwhelmed central phone line.”

HRA is also failing to process applications in a timely manner, the suit alleges.

“By the end of December 2022, over 28,000 Cash Assistance/SNAP applications were overdue and, of these, 5,711 of these were overdue dating back to September 2022,” New York Legal Assistance Group wrote in the suit against the city. “Through no fault of their own, Plaintiffs do not receive the benefits to which they are entitled.”

New York City will review the lawsuit, a spokesperson for New York City’s Law Department said. 

“The City will continue to support New Yorkers in need and we will review the litigation,” the spokesperson said.