NEW YORK (PIX11) – A judge has ordered New York City to expedite the processing of food stamp applications and recertifications amid a backlog, which advocates said is causing food instability for families who benefit from the program.

The ruling came after an agreement between the Legal Aid Society, New York Legal Assistance Group and Dechert LLP and the City of New York. The plaintiffs said the city was failing to process SNAP applications within the 30-day time period required by state and federal law.

The New York City Department of Social Services and Human Resources Administration was required to clear out the backlog of SNAP applications to no more than 800 cases by Monday as part of the court order. It was not clear on Tuesday whether the city was able to clear out the backlog by the deadline.

Additionally, the city has to create monthly progress reports on the processing of the applications.

The city has until March 2024 to process all leftover applications in accordance with the order.

Advocates filed a class action lawsuit against the city in January for the alleged food stamp application delays.

The DSS told PIX 11 News in a statement: “DSS continues to aggressively hire, train and re-deploy staff, implement process improvements, and streamline our highly effective remote processes to bolster Cash Assistance and SNAP processing and ultimately get these benefits to New Yorkers in a timely manner. As a result of the unprecedented challenges arising during the pandemic, the City collaboratively negotiated an agreement with the plaintiffs under which the City will reach substantial compliance with timeliness for Cash Assistance and SNAP benefits by March 2024.”