New Help for Public Assistance Recipients

September 24, 2003

New York State’s welfare reform efforts are predicated on the belief that individuals in need of financial assistance can attain self-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.

This year, I spearheaded legislation recently signed into law (A.6341-B (Glick)/S.5442 (Meier) Chapter 373 of the Laws of 2003) that will truly give certain public assistance recipients the opportunity to move off the welfare rolls. This new law will permit households that receive a nonrecurring lump sum to utilize these funds within ninety days of receipt for certain purposes that will enhance their ability to gain and maintain self-sufficiency. The law will require local districts, when calculating the period of ineligibility for assistance resulting from receipt of a nonrecurring lump sum, to disregard up to $2,000 or $3,000 if a member of the household is 60 years of age or older.

Additionally, districts must disregard income from the lump sum that is applied within ninety days of receipt toward certain resources. Such resources include: a car used for employment purposes; separate bank accounts in amounts up to $4,650 for the purchase of a first or replacement vehicle and up to $1,400 to pay tuition at a two-year post-secondary educational institution; burial plots for household members; and, funeral agreements for household members. I am pleased with the opportunity that the new statute will afford low-income families and will continue to fight for laws that allow public assistance recipients to make essential investments in their long-term stability.