New York State Assembly, Albany, New York 12248

A special report from...
The New York State Assembly
Committee on

NYS Assembly seal

Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Deborah J. Glick, Chair, Social Services Committee square March 2002

A Message from the Chair...
Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick

photo Dear Friend:

Throughout the 2001 Legislative Session, the Assembly Social Services Committee fought long and hard to protect and improve vital services for New Yorkers in need — in a fair, cost-effective and progressive manner.

Despite the Governor’s attempts to cut programs for our most vulnerable citizens, the Assembly Majority remained firm in its conviction that slashing services threatens the neediest among us, resulting in increased costs throughout the system in the long run. The Assembly focused instead on advancing policies — and extending and improving key programs — that assist poor families and individuals in making the transition off of public assistance and onto the path of economic security. During the current Session, I will strive to ensure that the budget fulfills the critical responsibility of society to provide for and care for those in need.

This newsletter highlights many of the legislative accomplishments won by the Assembly Majority during the 2001 Session — thanks to the support of countless individual citizens and community groups who share our commitment to help families make ends meet while promoting responsibility, cost-effectiveness and fairness. I hope this information is helpful to you and your families.

I look forward to working with you throughout the year as the Committee continues its dedication to improving necessary services to the indigent of our State. As always, please feel free to contact me with your questions, comments, and concerns.

Deborah J. Glick, Chair
Assembly Social Services Committee

Please Send...
...any address changes or the address of anyone who would be interested in receiving legislative updates from the Committee on Social Services to Assemblymember Glick’s Albany office, Room 844, Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY 12248


Assemblymember Glick with Commissioner Brian Wing of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance at a Social Services Committee meeting.

Strengthening child support enforcement
Improvements in the child support enforcement program are crucial to the economic well-being of children, not only for those receiving public assistance, but also for those whose standard of living is eroded by the lack of adequate income support from absent parents. During the 2001 Session, the Committee secured passage of two pieces of legislation that continue New York’s focus on increasing the collection of child support.

The Assembly extended legislation until June 30, 2003 that employs the resources of the State agency whose institutional mission is already focused on the collection of unpaid and outstanding financial obligations — the Department of Taxation and Finance — in the enforcement of child support orders. Under the terms of this legislation, child support arrears which are four or more months past due will be subject to enforcement and collection action by the Department of Taxation and Finance, with such arrearages collectable in the same manner as a tax obligation owed to the State of New York. This legislation sends a clear message that refusal to pay court-ordered support to one’s family will not be tolerated in New York State.

"This legislation sends a clear message that refusal to pay court-ordered support to one’s family will not be tolerated in New York State."

Additionally, legislation was extended for two additional years until June 30, 2003, which provides the Department of Motor Vehicles with the authority to suspend the driving privileges of individuals who have accumulated four or more months of child support arrears. This program serves as a strong deterrent to those wishing to avoid support payments.

The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s partnership with the Department of Taxation and Finance and the Department of Motor Vehicles will continue to increase child support collections substantially, and will better serve the needs of New York’s children, as well as New York’s taxpayers. (Department of Taxation and Finance: A.7923 / Chapter 68 of the Laws of 2001. Department of Motor Vehicles: A.7924 / Chapter 72 of the Laws of 2001)

Providing assistance to victims of domestic violence
Recognizing the vital role that food stamps play in reducing hunger in New York, the Legislature extended the state Food Assistance Program (FAP) for two additional years, until September 30, 2003. The program is designed to assist the more vulnerable populations of legal immigrants who, because of their immigrant status, are no longer eligible for the federal Food Stamp program as a result of federal welfare reform.

Additionally, this legislation extends the benefits of the state Food Assistance Program to certain legal immigrants who are victims of domestic violence. The Assembly has always recognized the needs of domestic violence victims and has consistently supported programs that provide essential assistance to this population. Domestic violence victims are especially in need of assistance that can reduce their economic dependence on the very source of their abuse. This year, legislation was enacted that will provide important nutrition assistance to this vulnerable population of immigrants who may otherwise be forced to remain in dangerous situations. (A.8706-A / Chapter 362 of the Laws of 2001)

Increasing access to educational opportunities
The current population of public assistance recipients faces substantial educational barriers that make it difficult to obtain and retain gainful employment. The Assembly has long recognized the importance education plays in providing persons with the skills vital to advancement in today’s work environment. Moreover, there exists strong proof to demonstrate that an individual’s earning capacity increases with each educational level gained. Sound public policy demands that we provide public assistance recipients with the opportunity to access the basic education skills necessary to lift them out of poverty and off the public assistance rolls.

Identifying this need, the Committee advanced legislation (A.7933) this year that would permit public assistance recipients to participate in valuable educational programs, such as Adult Basic Education and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Furthermore, the legislation provides that local social service districts would be permitted to count the time a recipient spends in an educational program toward New York’s work participation rates, which are required at certain levels in order to obtain federal funding.

New York can, within federal guidelines, reduce the welfare rolls and provide low-income persons with greater opportunities for economic security. The Assembly will strive to ensure that reductions in poverty and educational gains remain central to the discussion on reducing the public assistance caseload.

COLA for SSI recipients
To help needy aged, blind, or disabled persons on fixed incomes keep pace with rising expenses, the Assembly has consistently supported annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients.

This year, we increased the standard of need for federal SSI payments to reflect COLA increases during the first half of calendar year 2002. The legislation also makes corresponding changes to personal needs allowances provided to residents of congregate care facilities.

(A.7422-A / Chapter 89 of the Laws of 2001)

Home care for children with disabilities
The Legislature extended the Care at Home program for physically disabled children for one year, until December 31, 2002. This program, commonly known as the "Katie Beckett" program, enables physically disabled children to be cared for at home under Medicaid at lesser cost than in a medical institution. Without this program, approximately 600 children in New York State would not be able to live at home with their families and receive necessary medical care, but would instead be institutionalized in either a hospital or nursing facility. The Social Services Committee is very pleased that this program will continue to provide families with flexibility and choice when caring for their disabled children. (A.3536 / Chapter 331 of the Laws of 2001)

Providing welfare recipients with the chance to get ahead
During the past legislative Session, the Committee took a bold step to provide public assistance recipients with the support they need to leave the welfare rolls. Legislation was enacted that extends for two years the provisions prescribing the resources that are exempt and disregarded when a local district calculates the amount of benefits for which a household may be eligible. This measure will ensure that those resources the Legislature deemed exempt as part of the Welfare Reform Act of 1997 are preserved in law. Further, this ensures that families do not have to divest themselves of everything in order to qualify for public assistance, when what they need is a helping hand during a difficult time.

The Assembly Majority further recognized the barrier that a lack of transportation plays in securing stable employment and succeeded in improving the current system. The current law prescribing the allowable resources of a welfare household has been further expanded to allow a current recipient to save up to $4,650 in a bank account for the sole purpose of purchasing a first or replacement vehicle in order to seek or retain employment. Although public transportation is a viable option for many needy families in urban areas, families throughout New York State are disadvantaged by no reliable transportation. Often these families must depend solely upon neighbors, friends and other family members to provide them with transportation to get to and from work and childcare locations. This measure provides households with the opportunity to save for a vehicle, which may afford these families with the dependable transportation necessary to secure work and become self-sufficient.

(A.8700, S.4859 / Chapter 207 of the Laws of 2001)

Governor denies welfare recipients the opportunity to become self-sufficient
New York State’s welfare reform efforts are predicated on the belief that individuals in need of financial assistance can attain sulf-sufficiency if provided with the skills and opportunity needed to maintain full-time employment. In order to achieve this goal, the Assembly has consistently recognized that many other factors, such as affordable housing, access to childcare, higher education, reliable transportation and funds to meet emergency needs contribute to a family’s ability to maintain its independence. Because of this recognition, certain income and assets are disregarded when a family first applies for public assistance.

However, should a family on public assistance receive a nonrecurring lump sum of income — such as a small inheritance, or settlement of a lawsuit — they are prohibited from utilizing those funds to obtain any of the assets that public assistance applicants are allowed to possess at the time of the initial application. Instead, that family would be prohibited from receiving public assistance for the amount of time that the lump sum could provide their public assistance grant.

"The Assembly has consistently recognized that many...factors, such as affordable housing, access to childcare, higher education, reliable transportation and funds to meet emergency needs contribute to a family’s ability to maintain its independence."

This year, the Assembly spearheaded legislation that truly gives certain recipients the opportunity to move off the welfare rolls. This legislation permits those public assistance recipients who receive a nonrecurring lump sum of up to $25,000 to utilize these funds for certain purposes within ninety days, and to still be eligible for public assistance. These purposes include applying the lump sum toward the resources that a person first applying for public assistance would be allowed to keep, or to pay expenses for education or job training to attend an approved post-secondary institution.

While this legislation, A.9020, passed both houses, the Governor chose to deny recipients this opportunity to invest any nonrecurring lump sum in the resources and training necessary for a family to successfully transition from welfare to work. In Veto Memo number 52, the Governor voiced his concern over allowing a recipient to invest in his or her family’s future at the same time that the family is receiving public support. The Assembly continues to believe that such investments are the only way that families will truly move into stable, self-sufficient situations. We will continue to fight for laws that allow recipients to make such essential investments in their long-term stability.

Improving access to childcare for low-income working families
Childcare that is safe, reliable, affordable, and helps children develop and learn is essential in the lives of working families. Because childcare is both a major concern and expense for working families, improving the accessibility of childcare is a priority of the Assembly.

Two years ago, legislation was enacted to provide that public assistance recipients who are working, yet still qualify for public assistance and are therefore guaranteed childcare for children under 13 years of age, may choose to receive only the guaranteed day care subsidy and not the cash assistance. Unfortunately, it became apparent that the state agency responsible for administering subsidized childcare was not guaranteeing the childcare the Legislature had intended. It became vital this Session to clarify that working, eligible families who choose to forgo cash assistance are still guaranteed the day care subsidies to which they are entitled.

Furthermore, many working families continue to be eligible for public assistance. However, they may choose to forgo the small amount of cash assistance they are eligible for in order to preserve their five years of time-limited federal public assistance. In most cases, these families cannot forgo their cash assistance if they are going to lose the guaranteed childcare. The childcare assistance these families receive is vital for them to remain employed. It is often worth far more than their cash grant and does not use up any of their time-limited benefits.

Several counties are experiencing waiting lists for low-income subsidized childcare. This is further exacerbated by the agency’s interpretation, which is that recipients lose their guaranteed childcare if they forgo cash assistance. This posture forces families to receive cash assistance in order to retain the childcare crucial to their ability to continue working. As a result, they will be using up their time-limited public assistance and taxpayers will be contributing toward some assistance that the family was willing to forgo. This measure will ensure that certain households receive the childcare assistance they are guaranteed under law.

(A.8707 / Chapter 566 of the Laws of 2001)

Ensuring a smooth transition for public assistance recipients
Five years ago, welfare was dramatically reshaped by the enactment of the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. This legislation eliminated the open-ended entitlement to federally funded assistance and instead implemented a sixty-month lifetime limit on the receipt of federal benefits. On December 2, 2001, the first of many thousands of families throughout New York State reached their five-year time limit. Because New York is required by its Constitution to provide support to the needy, most of these families will receive benefits through the Safety Net Assistance program, which is state and locally funded. The Assembly recognizes how critical it is to ensure that during this transitioning period, these economically fragile families do not experience any disruptions in the receipt of benefits to which they are entitled.

When New York enacted the Welfare Reform Act of 1997, which implemented the federal statute, the Legislature intended to provide a seamless transition from the federally funded Family Assistance (FA) program to the Safety Net Assistance (SNA) program. This year, the Social Services Committee reported legislation (A.7941) that further clarified the Legislature’s intent to provide a seamless transition from FA to SNA. However, during this past Session, it became evident that the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, our state welfare agency, intended to implement an unnecessary reapplication process for those families who have exhausted their federal benefits. At this time, it is difficult to assess the full impact that the reapplication process had on the thousands of families who exhausted their time limit in December 2001. The Committee will continue to actively monitor the process throughout New York State and will strive to ensure that our neediest families are not faced with unnecessary hardship due to processing errors during the transition period.

Where to Call for Help

Information from the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA):

General Information (800) 342-3009
(for referrals or questions about available services)

Public Information Office (518) 474-9516
(to request informational pamphlets and other OTDA publications)

Child Health Insurance Plus (800) 541-2831

Child Support Enforcement (800) 846-0773

Domestic Violence

  • English (800) 942-6906
  • Spanish (800) 942-6908
  • NYC (800) 621-HOPE

    Food Stamps (800) 342-3009

    New York City residents may also contact the Human Resources Administration (HRA):

    InfoLine (718) 291-1900

    AIDS Services Service Line (212) 971-0626

    HRA Complaint Line (718) 291-4141

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