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REPORT: No Keys to Safe and Decent Housing in New York’s “Safety Net”

Posted on August 15th, 2023

REPORT: No Keys to Safe and Decent Housing in New York’s “Safety Net”

The Inadequacy of the Public Assistance Shelter Allowance and Rental Supplements

More than ever before, the COVID-19 public health crisis highlighted that housing is essential to health and wellbeing. Without safe and stable housing, New Yorkers are unable to achieve optimal health, educational, economic, and social outcomes.

Yet for most New York households that rely on public assistance, housing instability is unavoidable. Safe and habitable rental units in the private rental market simply do not exist at price points that are affordable for households relying on public assistance’s allowance for rent (the “shelter allowance” or “rent allowance”).

New York’s shelter allowance has not been updated for households with families since 2003 and has not been updated for households without children since 1988. The current shelter allowance for a family of three with children ranges from a low of $259 a month in Franklin County to a high of $447 in Suffolk County. These amounts are not enough to cover the cost of any habitable rental unit in New York State, falling hundreds of dollars below what the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has determined to be fair market rents for these areas.

Our new report, No Keys to Safe and Decent Housing in New York’s “Safety Net”, documents the inadequacy of rental assistance for public assistance recipients, and offers policy recommendations to solve the problem of housing instability and homelessness for public assistance recipients.

Read more about our findings and our recommendations in our full report.


Note: Report updated 8/23/2023 to correct Westchester information in Appendix II (page 50). 

Standard of Need by County

Posted on August 1st, 2022

Does Temporary Assistance Meet Households’ Level of Need?


Quick Links:

  • To calculate a basic public assistance budget, Click here.
  • To find your county’s Shelter Supplement Plan(s) and Rental Supplement Program Plan, see the  Shelter Supplements and Rental Supplements by County chart below


There are two types of Temporary Assistance: Family Assistance (FA) and Safety Net Assistance (SNA). FA is for families with children, subject to certain eligibility restrictions, including a 60-month time limit. SNA is for single individuals, childless couples, and households with children that have reached the five-year time limit. Applicants must meet eligibility requirements, including income and resource limits. For those found eligible, monthly Temporary Assistance benefits are less than 50% of the federal poverty limit in all New York counties. This page provides additional details about Temporary Assistance grants and rent supplement programs available in some local social services districts.

The monthly Temporary Assistance grant in New York State has two main parts: non-shelter and shelter.



The non-shelter portion of the public assistance grant consists of a “basic grant,” and is the same regardless of county of residence. It is based on household size:

Household Size
Each Additional Person
Monthly non-shelter grant



The shelter portion of the public assistance grant, called the “shelter allowance,” is set by regulation and varies by county of residence as well as household size and composition. There are two shelter allowance schedules: one for households with children and one for households without children. The shelter allowances are dramatically lower than the actual cost of decent housing in all counties across New York State. For example, here are the shelter allowances for households with children in Albany County and Cortland County:

Household Size 1 2 3 4 5 6
Albany County Shelter Allowance 214 219 309 348 386 404
Cortland County Shelter Allowance 199 234 281 317 352 384


The shelter allowances for every county are available in our Standard of Need Chart

Households also receive a “home energy allowance” and “supplemental home energy allowance” for all energy costs, other than heating. These allowances are the same regardless of county of residence and set by regulation. Combined, these energy allowances are as follows:

Household Size 1 2 3 4 5 6 Each Add’l Person
Monthly non-heating energy allowance 25.10 39.50 53 68.70 84.70 97.20 +12.50


If the household pays for heat, there’s a separate heating allowance, also set by regulation, that varies based on the heating source.

Want to learn more about the shelter and energy allowances? Click here to read Empire Justice Center’s report Turn Up the Heat: It’s Time to Raise New York’s Shelter and Fuel Allowances.


Standard of Need

Together, the shelter and non-shelter allowances are called the “standard of need.”

Click here for the current standard of need charts for all 58 social services districts. The last time the standard of need was increased was October 1, 2012.

Note: These standard of need charts indicate that Temporary Assistance grants are significantly lower than the federal poverty level. For instance, in Suffolk County, the total grant for a family of 3 with children with no other income is only $836 – 44% of the federal poverty level. Click here for a comparison of the standard of need for a family of three to the poverty level for each social services district.


Shelter Supplement Plans

Families with children and individuals who receive Temporary Assistance (FA or SNA) and who are experiencing homelessness or are at imminent risk of homelessness may be eligible for an additional grant, called a shelter supplement, to help them with their housing costs. Shelter Supplement Plans are authorized pursuant to 03-ADM-07 and 09-ADM-10.

Not all counties offer shelter supplements, and the number of available supplements in many counties is much more limited than the need. Counties set their own eligibility criteria, and those eligibility criteria vary widely. For instance, in Westchester County, families are ineligible for a shelter supplement to retain housing until they have been residents of Westchester for at least 12 months. In all counties, even with a supplement, households’ total amount of assistance is still lower than normal fair market rents. Click on the county names in the chart below to access the plans in effect as of January 1, 2022.


Rental Supplement Program Plans

Beginning in 2022, families with children and individuals, regardless of immigration status, who are experiencing homelessness or an imminent loss of housing may be eligible for assistance in the form of a rental supplement. Rental Supplement Program Plans are authorized pursuant to 21-LCM-24.

Eligibility is typically not limited to households receiving Temporary Assistance, but receipt of Temporary Assistance is not disqualifying. Not all counties offer rental supplements, and the eligibility criteria of each county’s plan differ.


Shelter Supplements and Rental Supplements by County

The chart below contains all counties in New York State outside of New York City, which has its own programs to help residents with housing costs.

Click on the county names in the charts below to access the approved plans as of April 25, 2023.

The amount of shelter supplements distributed in 2022 for every county are available in our Shelter Supplements 2022 Chart

The amount of rental supplements currently distributed for every county are available in our Rental Supplements Chart

County Shelter Supplement Plan for Families w/ Children Shelter Supplement Plan for Singles & Childless Couples Rental Supplement Program Plan
Albany Albany RSP
Allegany Allegany RSP
Broome Broome RSP
Cattaraugus Cattaraugus RSP
Cayuga Declined to Participate
Chautauqua Chautauqua RSP
Chemung Chemung RSP
Chenango Chenango RSP
Clinton Clinton SSP Clinton RSP
Columbia Columbia SSP Columbia RSP
Cortland Cortland RSP
Delaware Delaware RSP
Dutchess Dutchess SSP Dutchess RSP
Erie Erie RSP
Essex Declined to Participate
Franklin Franklin RSP
Fulton Fulton RSP
Genesee Genesee RSP
Greene Greene SSP Greene RSP
Hamilton Declined to Participate
Herkimer Herkimer RSP
Jefferson Jefferson SSP Jefferson RSP
Lewis Lewis – SSP Lewis RSP
Livingtson Livingston RSP
Madison Madison SSP Madison RSP
Monroe Monroe SSP Monroe SSP Monroe RSP
Montgomery Montgomery RSP
Nassau Nassau SSP Nassau SSP Nassau RSP
Niagara Niagara RSP
Oneida Oneida RSP
Onondaga Onondoga RSP
Ontario Ontario SSP Ontario RSP
Orange Orange SSP Orange SSP Orange RSP
Orleans Declined to Participate
Oswego Oswego RSP
Otsego Otsego SSP Otsego RSP
Putnam Putnam RSP
Rensselaer Rensselaer RSP
Rockland Rockland SSP Rockland RSP
Saratoga Saratoga RSP
Schenectady Schenectady SSP Schenectady RSP
Schoharie Schoharie SSP Schoharie RSP
Schuyler Schulyer RSP
Seneca Seneca RSP
St. Lawrence St. Lawrence RSP
Steuben Steuben RSP
Suffolk Suffolk SSP Suffolk SSP Suffolk RSP
Sullivan Sullivan SSP Sullivan RSP
Tioga Tioga RSP
Tompkins Tompkins RSP
Ulster Ulster SSP Ulster RSP
Warren Warren RSP
Washington Washington SSP Washington RSP
Wayne Declined to Participate
Westchester Westchester SSP Westchester SSP Westchester RSP
Wyoming Wyoming RSP
Yates Yates SSP Yates RSP


Homeless Services Plans and Reports by County 

For more information on the programs and services local districts offer to households at risk or experiencing homelessness, please see the chart below containing the available homeless services plans and reports for all social services districts. Click on the plans and reports in the charts below to access each district’s most recent homeless service plan and report. 


County Homeless Service Plan 2020-2022 Homeless Services Report
Albany Albany County Homeless Services Plan Albany Homeless Services Report
Allegany Allegany County Homeless Services Plan Allegany Homeless Services Report
Broome Broome County Homeless Services Plan Broome Homeless Services Report
Cattaraugus Cattaragus County Homeless Services Plan Cattaraugus Homeless Services Report
Cayuga Cayuga County Homeless Services Plan Cayuga Homeless Services Report
Chautauqua  Chautauqua County Homeless Services Plan Chautauqua Homeless Services Report
Chemung  Chemung County Homeless Services Plan Chemung Homeless Services Report
Chenango  Chenango County Homeless Services Plan
Clinton Clinton County Homeless Services Plan Clinton Homeless Services Report
Columbia Columbia County Homeless Services Plan Columbia Homeless Services Report
Cortland Cortland County Homeless Services Plan Cortland Homeless Services Report
Delaware Delaware County Homeless Services Plan Delaware Homeless Services Report
Dutchess Dutchess County Homeless Services Plan Dutchess Homeless Services Report
Erie Erie County Homeless Services Plan Erie Homeless Services Report
Essex Essex County Homeless Services Plan Essex Homeless Services Report
Franklin Franklin County Homeless Services Plan Franklin Homeless Services Report
Fulton Fulton County Homeless Services Plan Fulton Homeless Services Report
Genesee Genesee County Homeless Services Plan Genesee Homeless Services Report
Greene Greene County Homeless Services Plan
Hamilton Hamilton County Homeless Services Plan
Herkimer Herkimer County Homeless Services Plan Herkimer Homeless Services Report
Jefferson Jefferson County Homeless Services Plan Jefferson Homeless Services Report
Lewis Lewis County Homeless Services Plan Lewis Homeless Services Report
Livingston Livingston County Homeless Services Plan Livingston Homeless Services Report
Madison Madison County Homeless Services Plan Madison Homeless Services Report
Monroe Monroe County Homeless Services Plan Monroe Homeless Services Report
Montgomery Montgomery County Homeless Services Plan Montgomery Homeless Services Report
Nassau Nassau County Homeless Services Plan Nassau Homeless Services Report
New York City NYC County Homeless Services Plan NYC Homeless Services Report
Niagara Niagara County Homeless Services Plan Niagara Homeless Services Report
Oneida Oneida County Homeless Services Plan Oneida Homeless Services Report
Onondoga Onondoga County Homeless Services Plan Onondoga Homeless Services Report
Ontario Ontario County Homeless Services Plan Ontario Homeless Services Report
Orange Orange County Homeless Services Plan Orange Homeless Services Report
Orleans Orleans County Homeless Services Plan Orleans Homeless Services Report
Oswego Oswego County Homeless Services Plan Oswego Homeless Services Report
Otsego Otsego County Homeless Services Plan Otsego Homeless Services Report
Putnam Putnam County Homeless Services Plan Putnam Homeless Services Report
Rensselaer Rensselaer County Homeless Services Plan Rensselaer Homeless Services Report
Rockland Rockland County Homeless Services Plan Rockland Homeless Services Report
Saratoga Saratoga County Homeless Services Plan Saratoga Homeless Services Report
Schenectady Schenectady County Homeless Services Plan Schenectady Homeless Services Report
Schoharie Schoharie County Homeless Services Plan Schoharie Homeless Services Report
Schuyler Schulyer County Homeless Services Plan Schulyer Homeless Services Report
Seneca Seneca County Homeless Services Plan Seneca Homeless Services Report
St. Lawrence  St Lawrence County Homeless Services Plan St. Lawrence Homeless Services Report
Steuben Steuben County Homeless Services Plan Steuben Homeless Services Report
Suffolk Suffolk County Homeless Services Plan Suffolk Homeless Services Report
Sullivan Sullivan County Homeless Services Plan Sullivan Homeless Services Report
 Tioga Tioga Homeless Services Plan Tioga Homeless Services Report
Tompkins Tompkins County Homeless Services Plan Tompkins Homeless Services Report
Ulster Ulster County Homeless Services Plan Ulster Homeless Services Report
Warren Warren County Homeless Services Plan Warren Homeless Services Report
Washington Washington County Homeless Services Plan Washington Homeless Services Report
Wayne Wayne County Homeless Services Plan
Westchester Westchester County Homeless Services Plan Westchester Homeless Services Report
Wyoming Wyoming County Homeless Services Plan Wyoming Homeless Services Report
Yates Yates County Homeless Services Plan

ANALYSIS – Tenant Dignity and Safe Housing Act

Posted on June 4th, 2022

Read full text of this Legal Analysis of the Tenant Dignity and Safe Housing Act (2022)

SNAP Budget Worksheet for New York State 2022

Posted on August 24th, 2022

Emergency Allotments (EA) of SNAP benefits were authorized by Congress in 2020.  Emergency Allotments will continue each month until the public health emergency is lifted.  It is currently in place through October 13, 2022, and is expected to be continued. OTDA asks for approval from the federal government to issue EA each month. If approved, OTDA issues EA equal to the difference between a household’s regular monthly SNAP benefit and the maximum benefit for their household size, and for those receiving the maximum benefit, a $95 EA allotment. EA benefits are added to a household’s EBT card at a later date than the regular SNAP benefit.  You can find more information on EAs here: https://hungersolutionsny.org/covid-19/.

Child Care Copayment Disparities by County

Posted on January 13th, 2021

Featured below is an updated Child Care Copayment Chart for families of three with an annual income of $43,440 (200% of poverty) showing the copayment multiplier for each social services district in New York. This chart is based of a review of the annual plan updates and the COVID -19 waiver chart posted on the OCFS website as of January 2, 2021. For nine counties that had not posted annual plan updates for 2020, 2019 data was used.


We recommend you view the PDF here.


There are many changes from last year’s chart. Most striking is that only four districts continue with the impossibly high copayment multiplier of 35%, which is the number applied to the family’s income over the poverty level to calculate the parent share. Last year eighteen districts used this multiplier. Many districts have reduced their copayments to 25%, 20%, or even 10%.  Last year only three counties chose to use the 10% copayments multiplier, which is the lowest permitted under state regulation. This year there are eight counties with 10% multipliers. Other important news to note is that the social services districts highlighted in red obtained approval from OCFS to waive copayments. The list of counties that are currently waiving copayments is updated monthly on the OCFS website at https://ocfs.ny.gov/programs/childcare/plans/ altogether for as permitted by 20 OCFS ADM-06, available at: https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/policies/external/ocfs_2020/ADM/20-OCFS-ADM-06.pdf





















Also featured below is a chart which shows the annual copayment required from families of three with incomes between the poverty level and 275% of the poverty level, and the percentage of the family’s gross income that that payment represents.


We recommend you view the PDF here.

Federal Language Access Website

Posted on June 15th, 2020

The mission of LEP.gov is to share resources and information to help expand and improve language assistance services for individuals with limited English proficiency, in compliance with federal law. Access the federal government’s website here.

New York State Language Access Policy

Posted on June 15th, 2020

Visit New York State’s Language Access Policy website to review New York State regulation or to file a complaint.

COVID-19 FAQ – NYS Foreclosure, Eviction, and Consumer Debt

Posted on March 30th, 2020




Last updated: March 30, 2020


Q. Is there a foreclosure moratorium in New York State?

Yes. All pending foreclosure actions have been stayed in New York , and no new foreclosure actions can be filed until it is further ordered. A foreclosure cannot be filed against you during this time, and any appearances or deadlines in existing matters are suspended until further notice.


Q. Did Governor Cuomo suspend the obligation to make mortgage payments for everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic?

No. New York State does not have the authority to unilaterally make this policy change, but the state is urging all lenders to work with homeowners during this time. If you have not experienced an economic hardship because of the pandemic, homeowners should continue to make their mortgage payments. If you have lost income because of the pandemic, Governor Cuomo and the NYS Department of Financial Services (DFS) urged all lenders and mortgage servicers to not require mortgage payments be made for 90 days (through June 19, 2020).  While we hope and expect lenders and servicers to comply with the Guidance, at this time none of the major financial institutions have announced any detailed plans of how they will work with mortgage holders. If you are not able to make your mortgage payment, reach out to your lender to talk to them about the situation.


Q. I was already behind on my mortgage.  Can my lender start a foreclosure action against me during the pandemic?

No. Foreclosure filings are not allowed in New York on any mortgage until further notice from the New York State Unified Court System. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that no foreclosure actions can be started on FHA-insured mortgages until at least May 18, 2020.


Q. I was in the middle of a foreclosure action when the COVID-19 pandemic began.  Am I in danger of losing my home in the middle of this pandemic?  

No foreclosure sales can occur until further notice from   the New York State Unified Court System.


Q. Do I need to attend a previously scheduled settlement conference?

No. All settlement conferences and other appearances have been cancelled until further notice from   the New York State Unified Court System.


Q. Do I need to meet filing or other deadlines?

No. All deadlines to file an answer, motion, response or other pleading have been suspended until at least April 19, 2020. In addition, if your loan is insured through FHA and a judgment was already issued, the federal government has hold on any foreclosure sales through May 18, 2020.


Q. My home was already sold at auction but I am still living in it. Can I be evicted?

No. All evictions in New York are on hold by state court order, pending further notice. This includes evictions from homes following a foreclosure sale.


Q. What happens if I was in a trial loan modification?

For homeowners currently in a trial modification, continue to make payments if you are financially able to do so. Your lender will honor the agreement you are in, and will continue towards a permanent modification if you are able to make all of your trial plan payments.

If you are not able to make trial payments as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Governor Cuomo has urged lenders and mortgage servicers to offer a 90-day grace period (until June 17, 2020) for further trial plan payments.  We hope that all lenders will agree to do this, but at this time none of the major lenders have announced detailed plans regarding this.  You should reach out to your servicer, as well. As more information becomes available, we will provide updates.   


Q. I have an FHA Mortgage, and I can’t afford to make payments on my mortgage due to layoff or reduced work as a result of due to the Covid-19 pandemic? Is there any relief?  

There are different rules that apply to FHA-insured mortgages. FHA-insured mortgages are in a 60-day moratorium for any foreclosure actions, meaning that no further action will be taken to move forward any foreclosures that have already begun. This also means that no new foreclosure actions will be filed during that time period. In addition, evictions for FHA mortgage homeowners are not allowed for 60 days.


Q. What if I am in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to save my home, do I have to continue to make plan payments? What if I cant because I lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

For those in Chapter 13 bankruptcies, you must continue to make your monthly bankruptcy payment.   If you cannot afford to make plan payments, contact your lawyer or the trustee of the bankruptcy court, as well as your mortgage servicer.


Q. What if there is a pending tax foreclosure action against my home?

Tax foreclosures are handled at the local level in New York, by either your county, municipality or town. You need to check with your local taxing authority for details. All foreclosure actions, including tax foreclosures, pending in the courts should be stayed and no new tax foreclosures can be filed at this time. If a sale has been scheduled for your home, contact your local taxing authority. If your home already was sold through a tax auction but you are still in the home, you cannot be evicted right now.


Q. What about homeowners insurance?

If you pay your homeowners insurance through your mortgage but you stop making mortgage payments, it is very likely the mortgage lender will continue to pay your homeowners insurance. If you pay your homeowners insurance directly, meaning you write the check out to the insurance company (or pay online or however), and you cannot pay it because of loss of income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you should contact your insurance company immediately. The New York State Department of Financial Services issued guidance asking the insurance industry to work with homeowners affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.  This includes allowing consumers to defer payments at no cost, extending payment due dates, and waiving late or reinstatement fees.  While this guidance does not have the force of law, it is a strong request to the industry.



Q. I am a renter.  Can I be evicted now? 

No. All evictions in New York are on hold by state court order, pending further notice. No new evictions can be filed until further notice by the New York State Unified Court System.

Q. Does this mean I don’t have to pay rent during the pandemic?

No. The legal requirement to pay rent still applies. If you stop making rental payments, you could face eviction when the courts reopen.

Q. I have more questions as a tenant. Are there more resources?

Yes. Go to the Housing Justice for All website at https://www.housingjusticeforall.org/faqs.



Q. I lost my job and overdrew on my bank account. Can I be charged overdraft fees? 

Yes, however, the NYS Department of Financial Services issued guidance asking the banking industry to waive overdraft fees (as well as ATM fees).   While this guidance does not have the force of law, it is a strong request to the industry.


Q. I lost my job and can’t afford to make credit card payments. What will happen?

The New York State Department of Financial Services) issued guidance asking the banking industry to waive late fees for credit card balances.  In addition, the guidance instructs companies to offer payment accommodations, and extend the payment due dates for consumers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.  While this guidance does not have the force of law, it is a strong request to the industry.


Q. If I owe debt, can my bank account be restrained or my wages garnished during the pandemic? What can I do if my account is already being restrained for a judgment but I need the money because I lost wages?

If a restraint is already in place and you wish to remove it, contact your local legal services program. It is unclear whether this kind of action can be addressed by the courts at this time.   No new legal actions can be filed at this time in the New York courts, so no new judgments/account restraints/wage garnishments can be put in place.


Please note: Do not send us any nonpublic information about any legal matter for which you seek legal representation until we request that you do so. Empire Justice attorneys will inform you if and when your matter is considered for legal representation. Until that time, any information you provide WILL NOT be considered confidential, and NO attorney-client relationship is formed by communications received through this website. Any information available on the website is for general legal education purposes only, and is not legal advice.

COVID-19 Advocate Info – Public Benefits Waivers and Emergency Guidance

Posted on March 25th, 2020




Last updated: June 16, 2020

The information compiled below is taken from a number of different sub-regulatory sources and grouped by benefits topic area for ease of reference during this emergency. Because many of the waivers presented are at county option, there are also a few notes highlighting situations where advocates may need to clarify the practice with their local department of social services (“LDSS”). Please note that this information is likely to change further, so please refer back to ensure you have recent information.



LDSS Office Operations

In spite of the declaration of emergency and directive to populate all open offices sparsely (on-site staffing level at the LDSS offices may be at 25% or 50% of capacity, depending on the reopening phase of a given geographical region), the LDSSs are required to be open during their regular business hours, meet emergency needs, and respond to requests for assistance consistent with their prior obligations (see 20 GIS TA/DC016 at 5).  Social services districts provide essential services and are exempt from the State’s restriction on in-person work (20 GIS TA/DC018 at 1).  LDSS employees must be masked for public safety.  Applicants and recipients seeking at the LDSS may be encouraged to mask, but may not be turned away for refusing to wear a mask or required to provide medical documentation demonstrating that the client has a medical condition that prevents masking (see GIS 20 TA/DC036 at Q.5, GIS 20 TA/DC039 at Q.10).


Just as prior to this public health emergency, each LDSS remains obligated to accept and register applications on the day an individual makes an application to DSS for the form of assistance he or she feels is most appropriate to meet their needs.  LDSSs offices must have staff available during core business hours to address and meet the needs of individuals who apply for or receive benefits…regardless of county-wide mandates to close county government offices (20 GIS TA/DC018 at 2).  Applications can continue to be submitted in person, by mail, fax, scan, online or by remote app (where these capacities exist).  LDSS may use a drop box to receive applications at the office if people are not coming inside but must check it throughout the day and at the end of the day to ensure that they can respond to emergencies in a timely manner (20 GIS TA/DC023 at 2-3, Q.8).  LDSSs must also ensure their continued ability to handle after hours emergencies, as they have been required to do previously.

The current waiver provisions permit the LDSSs to issue non-photo benefits cards through July 6, 2020, in order to facilitate access to assistance without requiring in-person appearance at the LDSS office (GIS 20 TA/DC028, Executive Order 202.28; effective date extended in GIS 20 TA/DC057 at p.2).


It is also worthwhile to note that Executive Order 202.7 permits notary by video conference if necessary, as some LDSS have asked clients to get notarized documents under various circumstances (effective through July 6, 2020 by Executive Order 202.38).  OTDA has clarified that the LDSS-4930 form used for assignment of wages can be pended until there is in-person contact due to good cause at this time and need not be immediately notarized (GIS 20 TA/DC023 at 1, Q.1).



Refundable Tax Credit Rebate Payments Issued Under the Federal CARES Act:


Pandemic Unemployment Compensation

Pandemic unemployment compensation is treated as unearned income for purposes of Temporary Assistance, SNAP and HEAP.  If a household receiving benefits begins receiving a pandemic unemployment compensation, the income must be reported to the LDSS consistent with the requirements of which ever public benefit the household is receiving (GIS 20 TA/DC035).



Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) is a food benefit that is being issued to all New York State households with a school-aged child that were unable to receive free or reduced price meals due to school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The benefit was authorized in the federal Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (P.L. 116-127, Sec. 1101).  This is NOT SNAP; the eligibility and income rules of SNAP do not apply.  This is a new, distinct benefit being issued through the same EBT card network that SNAP uses.  As detailed in GIS 20 TA/DC051, OTDA will do phased issuances of P-EBT benefits to current SNAP recipients, then Medicaid only households, and finally to households with neither SNAP nor Medicaid.  The LDSSs will have no responsibility or control over this process as it is solely being handled at OTDA.


Temporary Assistance

Certification Periods:


Effective May 20-June 30, 2020, telephonic application and telephonic signature on application are available at the LDSS option.  The relevant GIS identifies specifically several ways this may operate in a given LDSS.  See GIS 20 TA/DC049 for detailed description of the options. Extension for the month of June 2020 in GIS 20 TA/DC055.


LDSSs should not impose sanctions for non-compliance with requirements that require in-person contact or where the person has good cause related to the COVID-19 emergency (GIS 20 TA/DC023 at 2).  Emergency guidance directed LDSSs to “consider the extent to which such factors [quarantine, lack of child care, worksite closure, etc.] may have affected an individual’s ability to meet program requirements and may document good cause” (GIS 20 TA/DC013 at 2; see also GIS 20 TA/DC023 at 2 note).  In essence, OTDA has urged LDSSs to make broad and ready use of this emergency as a reason for waiving penalties and looking beyond strict programmatic compliance; this is referenced in multiple locations in both GIS 20 TA/DC013 and GIS 20 TA/DC016.  LDSSs that use the mail-in recertification process should not take negative action on recertification packets that are not received through July 6, 2020 (GIS 20 TA/DC023 at 2, Q.4; GIS 20 TA/DC 016 at 2; effective date extended by GIS 20 TA/DC047 and subsequently by GIS 20 TA/DC057).    The guidance doesn’t specify that LDSSs should suspend all terminations and sanctions, though it certainly seems have the authority to do this, and should be encouraged to take this option.


For individuals who have served a sanction and are now seeking to return to assistance after the durational period of the sanction has run, the district should lift the sanction and may only require an in-home activity for them to demonstrate compliance (GIS 20 TA/DC023 at 5, Q.1).


Interviews by Telephone: While a face to face interview is generally required for public assistance (see 18 NYCRR §§ 350.3(c), 351.20(b)(3)), the face to face interview requirement is currently waived through July 6, 2020, for new applications and recertifications (GIS 20 TA/DC016 at 2; GIS 20 TA/DC028 at 1; date extended by GIS 20 TA/DC057). However, if an A/R requests an in-person interview, the LDSS must provide one.


LDSSs are directed to generate manual notices in order to send out information to recertifying TA recipients about the date and time of their telephone interview, and then send a written follow up to the telephone interview that indicates what additional documentation is needed to complete the eligibility determination after the interview is conducted (LDSS-2642, or local equivalent form).  Essentially, this involves treating the interview and documentation process for TA in substantially the same manner as the LDSS would do an interview for a SNAP-only application with a telephone interview.  Copies of birth certificates, rather than originals, are temporarily acceptable because of this process of mailing documentation; the original must be provided at the next feasible time (GIS 20 TA/DC023 at 3, Q.9)


Even where the LDSS is doing TA interviews by telephone, the LDSS must still conduct required drug/alcohol or domestic violence screenings.  These mandatory screenings may also be done by telephone.  (Soc Serv Law §§ 132 and 349-a are suspended through June 6, 2020, by the current declaration of emergency in Executive Order 202.1, extension of time in GIS 20 TA/DC028, subsequent extension of time to July 6, 2020 in GIS 20 TA/DC057.)  LDSS will continue to sanction an applicant who misses a required telephone assessment for drug and alcohol use unless the applicant can show good cause for not participating (GIS 20 TA/DC042 at p.3 Q.6).

All domestic violence waivers issued to Temporary Assistance recipients were extended through July 6, 2020 (GIS 20 TA/DC041; subsequent extension of timing in GIS 20 TA/DC057).


Emergency Assistance

LDSSs can conduct phone interview for persons with emergencies through July 6, 2020 (GIS 20 TA/DC057 for extension of timing).


Even where LDSSs are conducting telephone interviews for TA, they must still screen for emergencies when the application is submitted and meet the emergency need the same day, if present.  This may require face-to-face interaction.  (See GIS 20 TA/DC016 at 2.)

 For Homeless and Emergency Assistance beneficiaries: routine call-in/check-in procedures maybe be reduced in frequency, suspended and/or conducted by phone through July 6, 2020 (extension of timing in GIS 20 TA/DC057). LDSSs are still expected to ensure the needs of persons in emergency housing are met and that they receive necessary services.

Food for Persons in Emergency Housing: restaurant allowances are available to individuals housed in a location where they do not receive meals in their home or are unable to prepare meals at home.  There is also a home-delivery meal allowance.  (See GIS TA/DC023 at 3, Q.11 for more details about both these options.)

Emergency Assistance to Families must be provided to eligible homeless families for transportation needs.  Emergency Safety Net and Emergency Assistance to Adults do not have the same option (GIS 20 TA/DC042 at p.3, Q.9).

LDSSs are still required to respond to an applicant’s declaration of an emergency at the time of application and to provide appropriate notice to an applicant about meeting an immediate need, as outlined in 02 ADM-02.

In GIS 20 TA/DC013, OTDA reminded LDSSs about different eligibility requirements for emergency assistance and ongoing temporary assistance; this is not a change from prior guidance.



Employment and Training Activities (Both TA and SNAP)

LDSSs must not take negative action against applicants or recipients who fail to comply with an employment requirement that would have required in-person contact during this emergency (GIS TA/DC023 at 5, Note).Mandatory work assignments should be delayed until further notice (GIS 20 TA/DC048 at p.2).

“Any TA or SNAP recipient that is unable to comply with a work activity through May 15, 2020 must be granted good cause if the nonparticipation is due to an inability to participate or concerns with participation due to COVID-19” (GIS 20 TA/DC016 at 3).  The LDSS has the option to suspend or defer E&T activities and requirements for good cause and cite to GIS TA/DC016 as the reason thought May 15, 2020 (id.).


Employment orientations may be conducted by telephone, remotely or the LDSS can mail out papers to the recipient.  Note: I foresee problems when the LDSS randomly mails out a pile of papers without any explanation to a public assistance recipient who is expected to comply with E&T requirements to some extent based on the content of the papers.


Employment assessments and plans must be completed by telephone within 90 days of case opening and then draft plan mailed out to the recipient after the call (GIS 20 TA/DC048 at 2).

For E&T participants attending an education program that offers a distance learning option, LDSSs should encourage participants to remain enrolled through the distance learning program.  Through May 15, 2020, the 10 hour/week limit on remote education activity (see 08 ADM-07 at 19) is waived; in this waiver period, all remote hours are countable (GIS 20 TA/DC016 at 3).



SNAP Emergency Allotments were issued for March, April, May 2020 to some households: households receiving SNAP in March, April or May 2020 that were not budgeted at the maximum benefit for their household size received an emergency allotment that brought the household up to the maximum benefit permissible for their household size.  Those SNAP households already receiving a maximum benefits were not be able to receive an emergency allotment.


Mandatory Interview Can Be Waived: Applicants and recipients whose identity is verified by the LDSS and who have provided all other mandatory information and verification are NOT required to complete an application interview (GIS 20 TA/DS026 at 1; effective April 1-May 31, 2020;extended to June 30, 2020, by GIS 20 TA/DC054). If both conditions are not met, the interview cannot be waived.  The six factors for mandatory verification are: (1) Identity; (2) Social Security Number; (3) Residency; (4) Gross non-exempt income (earned and unearned); (5) Disability; (6) Alien eligibility.  Please note that 7 CFR 237.2(f) requires that these eligibility factors be verified at all times.  While GIS 20 TA/DC026 allows the districts to approve benefits without an interview, if any of the above conditions have not been met, the district will be required to interview an applicant and the applicant will be required to verify any remaining factors before their case can be approved for ongoing benefits if the factor cannot be verified through “verified upon-receipt data match.”  GIS 20 TA/DC 026 at 1.


The interview waiver also includes applicants for expedited benefitsThe only information required to be verified when a household is eligible for an expedited issuance of SNAP is the applicant’s identity (GIS 20 TA/DC026 at 2; 12-INF-06; extended to June 30, 2020, by GIS 20 TA/DC054).  All other verification required to establish eligibility for ongoing benefits can be pended and provided prior to issuance of ongoing SNAP benefits.  The guidance provides that, for expedited SNAP benefits, an applicant need only verify identity in order to be approved for benefits without an interview.  If an applicant has provided a social security number, identity can be verified via the SSN validation process (Section III.E.1 of 12-INF-06).  If the LDSS cannot verify an applicant’s identity, the LDSS may telephone the applicant to attempt to verify identity is verified in order to timely issue the expedited SNAP benefit in accordance with 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(3)(i) .  If an applicant is issued expedited SNAP benefits and then subsequently the applicant verifies all mandatory information, no interview will be required.

Effective May 20-June 30, 2020, telephonic application and telephonic signature on application are available at the LDSS option.  The relevant GIS identifies specifically several ways this may operate in a given LDSS.  See GIS 20 TA/DC049 for detailed description of the options. Extension for the month of June 2020 in GIS 20 TA/DC055.

For those applying for SNAP due to current job loss, LDSS may request but not require documentation to support the assertion of job loss.  The LDSS cannot require a SNAP applicant to provide verification of job loss from the prior employer (GIS 20 TA/DC023 at 5, Q.4). Allowable verification could include pending application for Unemployment Insurance Benefits or self-attestation.  LDSS staff should use the best available information and document in the case record what information is used (GIS 20 TA/DC042 at p.5, Q.1).

Certification periods:

It is unclear at this time how any potential overpayment resulting from extended certification periods will be treated when operations return to normal at some point in the future.  Households that were due to submit an interim or periodic report during April or May should not have been penalized for failing to return the form; if the household did return the form, the LDSS should have processed changes that resulted in increasing the household’s benefits.


For the months of April 2020, through the end of the month following the month in which the current public health emergency terminates, ABAWD work requirements are suspended (GIS 20 TA/DC021 at 1).  ABAWDs currently facing termination will remain on benefits and those who are not currently receiving benefits may immediately reapply and complete the application process for benefits without having to “regain eligibility” under the ABAWD rule in 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(d). All ABAWDs who were unable to meet the ABAWD work requirement in March of 2020 and were coded in the computer system as non-compliant with work requirements (ABAWD indicator code “AB”) were issued good cause by mass computer system change on or shortly after April 21, 2020 (described in GIS 20 TA/DC033).


All tax offsets for the purpose of recovering unpaid SNAP debts have been rendered inactive and will not be collected until further notice.  No new notices will go out and any currently pending review requests will be extended beyond the standard 30 day timeframe.


LDSSs have the option to temporarily raise the collection threshold for SNAP overpayment claims to $500 (rather than the $125 amount set forth in 05 ADM-15) for active SNAP cases; note—this does not change the claim amount for closed SNAP cases.  Disappointingly, OTDA has not directed LDSSs to alter their practices related to investigations and program violations at this point.


Additionally, the guidance provided reminders to the LDSSs about options they could undertake in operating SNAP right now, if they have not already done so.  These options include:



Per GIS TA/DC015 (effective March 13, 2020, and continuing until further notice), the in-person application and interview requirement is suspended for HEAP applicants.  The mandatory interview may conducted by telephone.  The application itself and supporting eligibility documents may be submitted by mail, fax or mobile application, where available (Broome, Clinton, Chemung, Livingston, and St. Lawrence counties).

Effective April 24, 2020, a third Emergency benefit will be available to eligible households experiencing a crisis or life threatening heat or heat-related energy emergency.  The eligibility criteria and application processing requirements for the third Emergency HEAP benefit will be the same as prior Emergency HEAP benefits.

Regular and Emergency HEAP benefits will operate through the close of business June 30, 2020 or until the funds are exhausted, whichever occurs first.  LDSSs and alternate certifiers must accept applications for the Regular and Emergency HEAP through close of business (COB) June 30, 2020 unless notified otherwise.  Mail-in applications postmarked, or electronic applications received on or before June 30, 2020 meet the deadline and must be processed.  The functionality to submit online HEAP applications through myBenefits website will be disabled at 5:00 pm on June 30, 2020 unless notified otherwise.


Child Support

Applications for the child support enforcement unit may be obtained from the child support enforcement hotline or online, in addition to in-person at the LDSS.  The LDSS referral for child support may be issued to a TA applicant and then returned by mail to the child support enforcement unit (CSEU) by mail with any support documentation.  The CSEU will then follow up with the applicant/recipient by telephone.


The CSEU has flexibility in determining whether or how a person must appear for purposes of support cooperation (GIS 20 TA/DC016 at 4, emphasis supplied).  Telephone messages, email or regular mail may all constitute an “appearance” for purposes of cooperation.  State regulation, 18 NYCRR 347.5, does not place a specific time limit on the cooperation requirement, so LDSS may delay determinations of cooperation in light of current public health conditions.

LDSS offices are encouraged but not required to set up telephone customer service lines for child support.


Fair Hearings

OTDA has authorized an immediate six-month pilot project of fair hearings by telephone, video conference, or “other means.”  An in-person hearing will still be available when:


  1. the applicant or recipient makes a request for an in-person hearing,
  2. in the judgment of OAH or the Hearing Officer, a party’s due process rights would best be served by conducting a hearing in-person, or
  3. in the judgment of OAH or the Hearing Officer, there are circumstances presented by the appellant which make proceeding with the hearing by telephone, video, or other means inadvisable.


Interpreters will be available for appellants with language access needs the same way for these alternate formats as they would for in person hearings.

Appellants and their authorized representatives will be instructed to send copies of documentary evidence to OAH in advance of the hearing.  OAH will provide all evidence electronically to the Hearing Officer.  The Hearing Officer will transmit any documentary evidence received from the Appellant to the Agency via encrypted email.


Relevant Guidance Documents


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Flexible Fund Transfers to Child Care

Posted on July 12th, 2019


Every year, counties are given the option to supplement their allocation of Child Care Block grant money from the state budget by drawing down money from the Flexible Fund for Family Services. The Flex Fund, as it is known, is  a nearly $1 billion dollar set aside of federal funds from the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant administered by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. In budget year 2011-12 , fourteen counties drew down 6.2 million dollars from the Flex Fund to help needy families pay for child care.  In 2018-19, only two counties, Nassau and Onondaga, made use of that funding, and the amount totaled  $1.5 million. Linked here is a chart showing year by year, which counties have drawn down Flex Fund dollars to invest in child care.

We recommend you view the PDF here.

chart depicting the flexible fund transfers to child care