Public Assistance

COVID-19 Information: What’s Changed? What Do You Need to Know?

Public Assistance

Summary:  Your local Department of Social Services (DSS) is still open and accepting applications, although personnel may be working remotely.  They must still screen for emergency need with every application and meet any emergency needs that same day. While DSS may conduct interviews and recertifications remotely (by telephone, mail, scan, or mobile app) they do not have to do so. The exception is HEAP, where the in-person requirement has been suspended.  HEAP applications may be sent in and interviews conducted by phone. Fair hearings may be (but do not have to be) held by telephone, videoconference, or other remote means. Please call your local DSS to determine how they are handling applications and interviews.


COVID-19 Related Legal Lifelines


All current public assistance and SNAP cases that were slated to recertify in March,through June of 2020extended for three months should have been automatically  extended for six months.  Please note that this does NOT apply to Medicaid only cases.  If your case is set to be recertified in July of 2020, you must complete your recertification however– outside of New York City there are no more automatic extensions.  There are no more automatic SNAP extensions as of July 2020 either. 


As of July 2020, in-person temporary assistance work programs are still suspended unitl further notice, but at-home assignments can be given.  DSS must also consider COVID-related issues such as child care, quarantine, and unavailability of work in determining whether to sanction or terminate benefits.  Able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) SNAP work requirements are suspended until the end of month after the declaration of emergency end (has not ended as of July 28, 2020).  Even with work at home assignments, DSS must consider whether you are unable to work or come to appointments due to things like lack of transportation, lack of childcare, or a closed worksite.  With respect to TA, the district “may” grant good cause, and with respect to SNAP, the district “may grant good cause with a notation of pandemic factors in the district without requiring a case-by-case documentation.”


DSS offices have been encouraged to conduct all eligibility interviews for temporary assistance (TA) over the phone and are allowed to issue benefits cards without photographs (this is a permanent change as of July 1, 2020.  They have also been encouraged to conduct recertification interviews by phone until August 5, 2020.   Workers will still screen for drug/alcohol and domestic violence during phone interviews.   SNAP applications and recertifications may already be taken by telephone and if you have all of your SNAP documentation together with your application, in some cases you will not have to interview at all. 


DSS has also been ordered to suspend all non-essential face to face activities, such as work assignments, periodic reporting, and job readiness, until further notice by the state.  Even though work at home assignments can be given, DSS  “must” find good cause if a recipient is unable to perform work activities due to COVID-19, including concerns about COVID-19. 


Separate guidance  states that HEAP applications and interviews do not have to be in person.  You may submit applications and supporting documents by mail, fax, or (where available) the NYDocSubmit mobile app.  Within LASNNY’s service area, this includes Clinton and St. Lawrence Counties.


From March 12th2020, through March 12, 2021 September 12th, 2020, fair hearings will be held remotely by “telephone, video, or other means.” If you requested a fair hearing after March 12, 2020, you will be offered a remote hearing.  If you want to have your hearing in person or if the hearing officer decides that there is some reason it should be held in person, it will be held in person. If you already have a hearing scheduled, you will be allowed to change it to a remote hearing or to adjourn it and reschedule it as a remote hearing.  If you need an interpreter, one will be available for your phone hearing. The hearing officer must have your evidence at least two days before the hearing, and you are also entitled to your evidence at least one day before the hearing.   Please see this guidance here for further details on the new fair hearings procedures, and the latest contact information for submitting evidence.  Or type in your browser