Civil Rights Complaint

Civil Rights Complaint

The civil rights violations observed by Hunger Task Force and substantiated by The Office of Affirmative Action and Civil Rights Compliance make it more difficult for eligible Limited English Proficient (LEP) clients to receive and maintain their FoodShare benefits. FoodShare is the state name for the federal government Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. FoodShare is the first line of defense against hunger. 1 in 8 Wisconsin residents, or more than 828,000 individuals, use FoodShare.

Read below for the timeline of the Civil Rights Complaint and a summary of violations and their impact on FoodShare clients. Click here to read the complete document.

Timeline

October 16, 2009: Hunger Task Force files a civil rights complaint with the State of Wisconsin’s Office of Affirmative Action and Civil Rights Compliance.   The complaint alleges that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) violates the civil rights of Limited English Proficient (LEP) FoodShare applicants by failing to provide adequate translation services and supports.

November 30, 2009: DHS sends letter acknowledging receipt, and stating intention to meet requirement to respond within 90 days by rendering a decision by January 15, 2010.

April 15, 2010: The State Office of Affirmative Action and Civil Rights Compliance issued a report finding that LEP FoodShare clients had experienced delayed or denied FoodShare benefits due to their LEP status, thus violating their civil rights.  Among the substantiated violations were:

  • The State’s FoodShare telephone hotline only provided prompts in English and Spanish, with no accommodation made for other languages.
  • Eligibility determination letters and verification requests that require client action were sent in English regardless of their LEP status / stated language preference.
  • The forms required to request a fair hearing are only available in English.
  • The Six-Month Report Form (SMRF) is available in English and Spanish only.
  • Required posted rights information on the FoodShare Program is not translated.

The report accepted DHS assurances that the necessary changes to correct these issues had either been made, or were in the process of being implemented.

April 2010 – October 2011: Hunger Task Force staff continue to observe a failure by DHS to correct the issues identified and substantiated in the Hunger Task Force civil rights complaint.  Hunger Task Force receives no information from the State on plans or progress to address and correct these issues.

October 16, 2011: Hunger Task Force sends a letter to DHS Secretary Dennis Smith, advising him of the continued failure of DHS to comply with the changes mandated by the April 15, 2010, report.  Secretary Smith is reminded that under the law, the complaint should have been resolved within 90 days, but more than 2 years have passed with no resolution.

November 2, 2011: State Representative JoCasta Zamarippa sends a letter to Secretary Smith asking for action on the Hunger Task Force civil rights complaint.  The letter demands a response from Secretary Smith within 10 days.

November 22, 2011: After receiving no response to her letter, State Representative JoCasta Zamarippa holds a press conference to raise the profile of her letter and demand corrective action.

Civil Rights Violation Impact on FoodShare Client

FoodShare telephone hotline only provides prompts in English and Spanish, with no accommodation made for other languages

The telephone hotline is a critical tool for clients that are seeking information on how to apply, how to get a status update, and on how to resolve problems with their case.

It is extremely difficult for LEP clients to navigate the system.

Eligibility determination letters and verification requests sent in English regardless of their LEP status.

LEP clients cannot learn if they are eligible, or if not eligible eligible, why.

Verification letters inform clients about the information they need to submit to complete an application for benefits

LEP clients may be at heightened risk of losing benefits because they can miss deadlines on providing information that will determine if they are eligible.

Fair hearing request form only available in English.

Fair hearings are the process for contesting adverse decisions by DHS on FoodShare benefits.

Lack of translated fair hearing request makes it difficult for LEP clients to contest adverse decisions.

Six-month Report Form (SMRF) only available in English & Spanish

Clients must file a SMRF every six months to maintain benefits, or the case is closed.

Once a case is closed, the client must either file for a fair hearing, or reapply for benefits.

Causes breaks in benefits of one-two months.

Required posted rights information on the FoodShare Program is not translated.

LEP Clients will not know what their rights are, or how to file a civil rights complaint if their rights are violated.

 

October 1, 2012:  Hunger Task Force sends an update to the State of Wisconsin's Office of Affirmative Action and Civil Rights Compliance regarding the continued failure to provide equal access to FoodShare for people with limited English proficiency.

 
 

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