NYS Seal


Oral Testimony by Invitation Only


The Adequacy of the Public Assistance Grant in New York State


To assess the adequacy of the Public Assistance Grant in New York State.

New York, NY
Thursday, September 6, 2007
10:30 A.M.
Assembly Hearing Room, Room 1923
19th Floor
250 Broadway

White Plains, NY
Friday, September 7, 2007
11:00 A.M.
White Plains Public Library
100 Martine Avenue

A generation of children has grown up since New York's welfare grant was last increased in 1990. In 1975, public assistance for a three-person family was equal to 110% of the federal poverty level. Today, it has fallen to less than 51% of the poverty level. Within the past few years, there has been a modest increase in the shelter portion of the public assistance grant, but the basic allowance for all other expenses has been unchanged for 17 years. Meanwhile, the cost of housing, transportation, food and energy, among other basic necessities, has increased dramatically. These increases have further reduced the real value of the welfare grant, making it nearly impossible for families to meet even their most basic needs.

While much has been written about the decline in welfare caseloads in New York State, there has been no concurrent decline in poverty. In fact, poverty is growing in New York, particularly upstate. Many families are forced to use their basic allowance to pay the rent, because the shelter allowance in the public assistance grant is rarely sufficient to meet the housing cost. For example, in Monroe County, a family of three (using gas heat) has a shelter allowance of $397 per month, while the HUD Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,075.

Fuel for heating allowances has not been increased since 1987. Since that time, average prices for electricity have increased by 84%, the cost of natural gas has increased 160%, and the cost of fuel oil has increased 239%. In Albany, for example, public assistance families who use fuel oil to heat their homes are given only $828 per year to pay for their heating costs. Families heating with natural gas are given only about $700.

Moreover, although caseloads have declined by 68% since the inception of welfare reform, not all those leaving welfare have found gainful employment and many public assistance recipients have not been able to make the transition from welfare to work. In July 2006, as a result of a wide range of barriers and disabilities, two out of three adults in TANF households were not participating in work activities. Even among families receiving Safety Net benefits (generally families who have exhausted their 60 month time limit for TANF assistance), less than half were engaged in work activities.

Research has shown that many of the adults in these families that continue to receive public assistance suffer from multiple disabilities - physical and mental disabilities, domestic violence, extremely low skill levels, education and literacy - that make it harder for them to find and keep employment. The easily employable welfare recipients have been taken off the rolls in the first 10 years of welfare reform. Many of those who still receive benefits need more intensive services to help them make that leap.

It is essential that the Legislature examine the adequacy of New York State's public assistance grant and assess the changing needs of the state's most vulnerable residents. This hearing will provide state agencies and local social services districts the opportunity to address the adequacy of the public assistance grant in meeting the basic needs of New York's neediest citizens.

In addition, this hearing is being convened to elicit testimony from non-profit social service providers; employment, training, and education program operators; and individuals and families receiving public assistance, who can discuss in greater depth the challenges many low-income New Yorkers face in attaining basic subsistence.

Please see below for a list of subjects to which witnesses may direct their testimony. Persons wishing to present pertinent testimony to the Committee at the above hearing should complete and return the enclosed reply form as soon as possible. It is important that the reply form be fully completed and returned so that persons may be notified in the event of emergency postponement or cancellation.

Oral testimony will be limited to 10 minutes. In preparing the order of witnesses, the Committee will attempt to accommodate individual requests to speak at particular times in view of special circumstances. These requests should be made on the attached reply form or communicated to Committee staff as early as possible. In the absence of a request, witnesses will be scheduled in the order in which reply forms are postmarked.

Ten copies of any prepared testimony should be submitted at the hearing registration desk. The Committee would appreciate advance receipt of prepared statements.

In order to further publicize these hearings, please inform interested parties and organizations of the Committee's interest in hearing testimony from all sources.

In order to meet the needs of those who may have a disability, the Assembly, in accordance with its policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has made its facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities. For individuals with disabilities, accommodations will be provided, upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Assembly facilities and activities.

Keith L.T. Wright
Member of Assembly
Committee on Social Services


  1. On average, how much of the basic monthly cash grant are individual public assistance recipients forced to spend toward housing costs due to the inadequacy of the shelter allowance?

  2. What are the most common grievances among recipients regarding the inadequecay of the PA grant? How do issues such as the costs of housing, food, transportation, child care, and health care impact the ability of public assistance recipients to obtain and maintain employment? What types of supportive services and/or public benefits have been most effective in helping these individuals remain employed? Would the availability of additional work supports enable more families to retain employment? If so, what type of work supports are most needed?

  3. Do food stamps provide adequately enough for families so that they are not forced to use part of their cash grant toward food costs?

  4. Are public assistance recipients able to cover all or most of their monthly household expenses with their welfare grants?

  5. What is the discrepancy between the basic cost of living for an average family of 3 receiving public assistance in a given month and the amount provided in the basic cash grant?

  6. How does the monthly cash grant limit public assistance recipients from achieving the basic economic stability necessary to obtain employment and participate in education and training programs?

  7. What are the most significant barriers to economic stability that prevent families who are receiving public assistance from obtaining new job skills and advancing in the workforce?

  8. If you calculate the range of benefits a public assistance recipient might receive (e.g., food stamps, Medicaid, HEAP), should they be calculated in determining the adequacy of the basic grant?


Persons wishing to present testimony at the public hearing on The Impact of Federal TANF Reauthorization in New York State are requested to complete this reply form as soon as possible and mail it to:

Elaine Fernandez
Legislative Analyst
Assembly Committee on Social Services
Room 522 - Capitol
Albany, New York 12248
Email: fernane@assembly.state.ny.us
Phone: (518) 455-4371
Fax: (518) 455-4693

box I plan to attend the following public hearing on The Adequacy of the Public Assistance Grant in New York State to be conducted by the Assembly Committee on Social Services on September 6, 2007.

box I plan to attend the following public hearing on The Adequacy of the Public Assistance Grant in New York State to be conducted by the Assembly Committee on Social Services on September 7, 2007.

box I plan to make a public statement at the hearing. My statement will be limited to 10 minutes, and I will answer any questions which may arise. I will provide 10 copies of my prepared statement.


I will address my remarks to the following subjects:

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