Applying For Public Assistance

What Kind Of Help Can I Get From Public Assistance?
Your local Department of Social Services is responsible for providing assistance to eligible people. This assistance can be in many forms. The most common forms are food stamps, medical assistance, and cash assistance to help you meet your bills.

You may also receive help with
♦ Day care
♦ Getting child support
♦ Moving expenses
♦ Heating bills
♦ Furniture and housing.

Everyone is entitled to apply for Social Services. Apply even if you think you are not eligible. Complete the application and do not let Social Services make you withdraw your application.

 How Can I Get This Assistance?
You will need to apply at the Department of Social Services. You may do this in person, by mail or have someone else apply for you. Whatever method of applying you choose, you will have to sign the application. The application is long and complicated. If you don’t understand something, ask for help from a Social Services worker.

What Happens After I Apply?
You should be seen by a Social Services worker, sometimes referred to as a pre-screener. This person should tell you in writing what documents you need to prove your eligibility for services. You must be given an eligibility appointment to return the documents within five working days from the day you first apply. This is called an eligibility interview. If you do not get an appointment within five working days, ask the worker why and contact the local Legal Aid office.

What Papers Will I Need To Take To The Eligibility Appointment?
You will need birth certificates and Social Security numbers for yourself and each member of your family applying for assistance. Everyone applying for assistance needs a Social Security number. If someone in your family doesn’t have a number, apply for one at your local Social Security office. If you can prove you applied for a number, your application must be processed.

You should also take marriage certificates, proof of your present income (if any), and proof that you have been supporting your family. If you worked recently, you’ll need a letter from your former employer stating the last day you worked.   You may need to apply for unemployment insurance benefits.

You’ll need proof of where an absent spouse or parent lives so that Social Services can seek support from that person. The only exception to this rule is when you think the person might hurt you or your children. If you have an order of protection, take it to Social Services to show that you have good reason not to seek support from that person.

What If I Can’t Get All Of The Documents?
Take what you have to your eligibility appointment. Do not miss your appointment. Public assistance is granted from the day you establish your eligibility so it is important that you hand in all of the papers as soon as possible in order to receive benefits quickly. If you are having trouble getting a document, show Social Services that you have tried and ask them to help you.

What Happens Next?
Once all of your documents are submitted, Social Services will work on establishing your eligibility. In order to be eligible for public assistance you must have less than $1,000 in resources (cash in the bank, jewelry, stocks, etc.). You must also be financially eligible. Your eligibility will depend upon the amount of income you have, the number of people in your household, and whether you have rent and heating expenses. If you do not have any income or resources, and you cooperate in providing the necessary documents, you will probably be found eligible.

When Will I Hear From Social Services?
Social Services has to make a decision on your application as soon as necessary documents are submitted, but no later than 30 days from the day you first applied if you are on the TANF program and 45 days if you are on the Safety Net program. You must receive a written decision from Social Services on your eligibility.

What Happens If I’m Denied?
Contact Legal Aid or another community agency that does social services work and have them review Social Services’ decision. You may be entitled to a Fair Hearing if the decision appears to be wrong. Always have someone check Social Services’ decision. It is possible that a mistake was made or something can be done to correct the problem on a new application.

If you are not allowed to apply, or if you are not given an eligibility appointment within 5 working days, contact Legal Aid immediately.

√       Everyone is entitled to apply for Social Services.

√       Take all of the necessary papers to your eligibility appointment.

√       If you are unable to get a document that DSS wants, ask them to help.

√       You must receive a written decision on your eligibility.