December 24, 2015
New York, NY – Struggling women throughout the city will no longer be abruptly cut off from vital public assistance thanks to a new law giving recipients who allegedly breach work requirements an opportunity to appeal looming sanctions.
“This is a sensible, much-needed measure that will help ensure people on public assistance are not unjustly penalized and forced to go hungry or live on the street,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said after signing the new measure into law earlier this week. “This is another way that New York State is leading by example, striking the right balance between offering a robust work program and eliminating unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles.”
Up until now, recipients depending on public assistance to help make ends meet were often automatically denied benefits for up to half a year without appeal, after missing a single day of work. At the same time, those same recipients were often rendered ineligible for certain work, education and training programs. In some cases, the devastating losses also meant the loss of child-care and transportation assistance.
Those brutal measures — overwhelmingly unfounded — disproportionately hurt women. Over 90-percent of sanction cases target the female heads of households. And according to the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance, just 242 out of the 21,474 sanction cases brought in 2015, ended up being deemed correct.
“Today is a great day for New York as we help to bring justice and expediency to public services,” Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright [D-District 70] said. “It's simple: sanctions are ineffective to clients, costly to taxpayers and create a large burden on local social service agencies. The implementation of this legislation means that a single mother who takes a day off from work to care for her sick child can do so without fear of missing rent. It means that recipients have rights, responsibility and a greater chance of moving away from poverty and achieving permanent self-sufficiency.”
Under the new law that Governor Cuomo signed this week, sanctions will no longer be automatic, and instead, require the evaluation of a live analyst.
Julie Kushner, director of United Auto Workers Region 9A, called the new rules “pro-work,” while Helen Schaub, New York State Director of Policy and Legislation for 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, said giving recipients more breathing room will help them maintain access to work and training programs that can lead to "better jobs and economic independence.”
The Legal Aid Society routinely works with thousands of individuals suffering under harsh welfare sanctions every year.
“Too often the sanctions were arbitrary, excessively punitive and a driver of homelessness,” said Legal Aid Society attorney Adriene Holder. “We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for signing S.3596/A.4250 into law. His leadership will help our clients avoid homelessness in the first place and help families in shelter to get into permanent housing more quickly.”