Tag Archive for: WWLP

MLRI class action lawsuit seeks to restore stolen SNAP food benefits (Various outlets)

CommonWealth Magazine, WWLP, and CBS News recently reported on a class action lawsuit filed by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute against the Department of Transitional Assistance that would require the state to pay food benefit recipients back aid money stolen through “skimming.” “Skimming” is a technique by which criminals attach a device to a point-of-sale terminal, such as an ATM or a store’s card-swiping machine, to steal the household’s account number and PIN. MLRI attorneys Deborah Harris and Betsy Gwin (pictured above) were quoted in news coverage of the lawsuit.

Below are excerpts of the articles.

CommonWealth Magazine (Nov. 7):

“What should not happen is that somebody fills up their grocery cart at the supermarket, gets to the checkout line and discovers there are no benefits in the account and they can’t feed their family that month,” said Deborah Harris, a Massachusetts Law Reform Institute attorney who filed the suit. “That is not acceptable. Either the federal government or the states have to step up to the plate.” 

Read more in CommonWealth Magazine.

WWLP (Nov. 8):

Plaintiffs allege that DTA declined to restore the stolen and spent amounts because the U.S. Department of Agriculture “has told states that USDA, which in most cases pays the full cost of SNAP benefits, will not cover the restoration costs,” the lawsuit reads. “Low-income families count on their SNAP benefits to put food on the table each month,” Betsy Gwin, a staff attorney at MLRI, said in a statement. “When criminals steal families’ SNAP, our federal and state governments must step up to restore the lost benefits.”

Read more at WWLP.

CBS News (Nov. 18):

The cases in Massachusetts may represent just a fraction of Americans who lose their benefits to theft, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture last month flagging it as a growing problem. About 41 million Americans currently rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP —the formal name of the food-stamp program — for food assistance. 

Skimming “is an extensive issue that extends across the country,” Gwin added. “The difference we see is the lack of federal protections for EBT users.”

Read more at CBS News.

Advocacy groups urge legislature to revisit no-cost phone calls for prisoners and prison construction moratorium (Various outlets)

A coalition of more than 80 advocacy groups, including Prisoners’ Legal Services and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, called on the Massachusetts House and Senate to return to session and revisit legislation that would make phone calls free for prisoners as well as place a five year moratorium on the construction of new jails and prisons.

Below are excerpts from the news coverage.

The Eagle-Tribune (Oct. 25) and The Salem News (Oct. 31):

Bonnie Tenneriello, a staff attorney for Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, said offering free phone calls to prisoners is a “no brainer” that was approved with “broad” legislative support.

“It will remove outrageous charges that burden low-income families of people in prison,” she wrote. “It will help children, spouses and parents stay connected with incarcerated loved ones, and it will help people in prison prepare to succeed on release — all at a very low cost to the state.”

Read more from The Eagle-Tribune and The Salem News.

WWLP (Oct. 26):

“Keeping families connected is key to reducing recidivism, making sure transitions back in the community are smoother, and those things right there keep communities safer,” said Mark Martinez from the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.

Read more from WWLP.