Sheldon Silver

Office of State-Federal Relations

Legislative Update
Carmen E. Arroyo

March 17, 2009

New York State

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Fiscal Stimulus/American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
(ARRA) - Household Benefits

The federal fiscal stimulus legislation or ARRA provides enhanced benefits or payments to families and individuals that have been negatively affected by the recession. Most of the payments will go directly to households through programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security, Unemployment Insurance (UI), Pell Grants, and COBRA health insurance. Some payments such as the SSI/Social Security payments are one-time benefits, others such as UI have a time limit and the SNAP (Food Stamp) increase is permanent. All of the following benefit increases or payments will automatically be provided to eligible recipients except for COBRA subsidies which may require some action on the part of those eligible.

(dollars in millions)

Program NY Multi-Year Share
SNAP- Food Stamps $1,289.00
Pell Grants $180.00
SSI/Soc. Sec. $166.00
UI Benefit increase $2,118.00
Total $3,753.00

At this time national and State estimates are available for most of these programs except for the COBRA subsidy. Please check back for future revisions.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - Food Stamps
Maximum monthly benefit levels are increased by 13.6%. For a family of 4, it could be an $80 increase. Normally the food stamp benefit is raised every year through cost-of-living increases. It would have taken about 5 years to reach a 13.6% increase in benefits. ARRA also temporarily allows single adults to receive food stamps for more than three months every three years. SNAP- Food Stamp households will receive the higher benefit level on their EBT cards starting in April, 2009.

Source:  fns.usda.gov

Pell Grants
ARRA increases national funding for the Pell Grant college financial aid program by $15 billion over two years, increasing the maximum student grant by over $1,000 from $4,360 to $5,350 in 2009-10 and $5,550 in 2010-11. It also expands the pool of eligible students nationally by 800,000 to about 7 million recipients. College students who qualify for Pell Grants will receive the higher grant amounts July 1, 2009.

Source:  ed.gov

Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security, Veterans Payment
SSI and Social Security beneficiaries, disabled veterans, veterans on pensions, and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries will receive one-time payments of $250 in either May or June of 2009. Recipients who are also eligible for the "Make Work Pay Tax Credit" will see their payments reduced by the amount of their tax credit. Recipients of the one-time payment do not need to apply for it; they will receive the payment in addition to their normal monthly benefit check in May or June.

Source:  ssa.gov

Unemployment Benefit Increase
Unemployment benefits are increased for jobless workers by $25 per week. This would increase the maximum benefit in NYS from $405 per week to $430. Current recipients and those who apply for benefits through December 31, 2009 will be eligible for the $25 increase but the higher payments will end June 30, 2010. Weekly unemployment checks will increase by $25 beginning March 1, 2009.

ARRA also extends the Emergency Unemployment Benefits Program which provides up to 33 weeks of extended benefits to unemployed workers who have exhausted their regular benefits. Recipients can qualify for these extended benefits if they apply for help before December 31, 2009, but the extended benefits are phased out beginning June 30, 2010. If an individual is eligible for extended unemployment benefits they will be enrolled for the additional weeks.

Source:  dol.gov

COBRA Subsidy
COBRA allows workers and their families who lose their health benefits because of job loss, or reduction in hours worked, to continue participating in their work health plan for limited periods of time, generally 18 months. Those qualified are normally required to pay the entire premium including what their employer paid.

ARRA provides federal financial assistance to employers to cover 65% of the COBRA premium for a maximum of 9 months of coverage for those workers who were terminated from their jobs on or after September 1, 2008 and before Dec.31, 2009. The participant pays the other 35%. The federal assistance is available beginning February 17, 2009.

The full benefit is available to individuals who earn less than $125,000 ($250,000 joint), partial benefit to those earning $125-$145,000 ($290,000 joint), and no benefit to those above $145,000 ($290,000 joint). If a worker has other health coverage or uses up their 18 months of COBRA coverage they are not eligible for the subsidy. Workers have until April 17, 2009 to enroll in COBRA with their employers if they do not currently receive it. This special enrollment period may not apply to employers with less than 20 employees. Those denied coverage may appeal their denial to the US Dept. of Labor.

Source:  usatoday.com