Carol’s Legal Aid Story

Legal aid helps reinstate SNAP benefits after decades-long denial

Carol had been trying for years to reverse a decision that forever barred her from receiving federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (also known as food stamps). The SNAP program has a “three strikes” rule that bans people with three violations from receiving benefits for life. Carol, who overcame a drug addiction, became even more stressed each time she applied for food stamps and was denied. During the pandemic, she lost her job, and decided to reach out to legal services for help.

Deborah Harris and Aisha Sleiman of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute took on Carol’s case and successfully argued that the violations barring her from SNAP benefits were invalid. Carol’s benefits were reinstated in time for Thanksgiving, and she was able to cook her family a large holiday meal.

Carol said she was grateful that legal services helps people who “don’t know all of the right words to say or the avenues to take or who to go to see in a time of need.”

“People need to know that there’s help out there and that nobody should be turned away for food,” she added.

Carol shared her story with hundreds of lawyers, law students, and advocates at Talk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid in January 2022. Attendees of the virtual lobby day urged state legislators to increase funding for civil legal aid.