Empire Justice Memo of Support: Require Local Districts to Credit the Minimum Wage Value of Workfare When Recovering Properly Paid Public Assistance

Susan Antos June 01, 2017

A.4166 (Quart)/S.2035 (Squadron)

Persons who receive public assistance in New York State are required to repay the local social services district for the assistance they receive.  Properly paid public assistance is a debt owed by the individual who received such assistance, and is subject to recovery under a number of provisions of the Social Services Law.  The recovery of such assistance is expressly authorized against windfalls such as inheritances (SSL 104), lawsuit proceeds (SSL 104-b), lottery winnings (SSL 131-r) and retroactive SSI awards (SSL 158(2)).  Additionally, local districts are entitled to recover properly paid public assistance by requiring applicants for public assistance who own their own homes to provide the district with a mortgage equal to the sum of public assistance paid as a condition of eligibility for assistance (SSL 106).

In December 2015, the New York State Court of Appeals held that when an individual works off their public assistance grant by participation in workfare, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires that the value of that work be credited against any recovery that the local district is entitled to make. Carver v. State of New York, 26 NY 3d 272,275 (2015).  Federal Courts have also reached this conclusion. See  Elwell v. Weiss, 2007 WL 2994308.  Despite the clear directive of New York’s highest court, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance has refused to implement the holding of Carver for other similarly situated individuals.

This bill would require compliance with the Court of Appeals decision by amending Social Services Law 336-c to require local social services districts to credit the value of workfare by calculating the number of hours worked multiplied by the higher of the state or federal minimum wage applicable at the time when determining the amount of properly paid public assistance that the local social services district is entitled to recover.

For more information, please contact:

Susan C. Antos

Empire Justice Center
119 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY  12210
(518) 462-6831
(518) 935-2852