Note: You will need a copy of your public assistance budget to use this Legal Life Line. If you do not have a copy of your current budget, ask your caseworker for one.
How does Social Services determine how much money I’ll receive?
The New York State Legislature sets specific amounts of money for various items of need. This is called the Statewide Standard of Need. These items of need are divided into three categories: shelter allowances for rent or mortgage, heating allowances and a basic grant.
The basic grant is determined by the number of persons in the household applying for public assistance. As of 2016, one person would receive $183.10, while a household of 3 would receive $389.00.
The shelter allowance is determined by three factors: the county you live in, whether or not heat is included in your rent and the number of persons in the household on the public assistance grant. It is important to remember that your shelter allowance is not based on the actual amount of rent you pay but these three factors. For example: a household of 4 living in Albany County with heat included in the rent would receive $348.00 a month for a shelter allowance even though that family may actually be paying $500.00 a month for rent.
The third category, the heating allowance, is based on four factors: heat not being included in your rent; the county you live in, the number of persons in the household on the public assistance grant and the type of heating fuel used in your home. For example, a household of 4 in Saratoga County with oil heat would receive $75.00 a month while a household of 4 in Saratoga County with electric heat would receive $127.00 a month for a heating allowance since electric heat is more expensive than oil heat.
These items appear in the left hand column of your public assistance budget. Check this column to see if you are receiving assistance for each item for which there is a need. Remember: You must have an item of need in order to receive a grant for that item. For instance, if you are not being charged rent you will not receive a shelter allowance.
Finally, these amounts are all combined to make up your PUBLIC ASSISTANCE STANDARD OF NEED. When you receive your check it is in a lump sum and therefore very difficult to determine what amounts of the above items you receive. However, you should receive a copy of your public assistance budget at the time you first go on assistance. If you did not receive a budget or your grant has changed since you received your last budget, ask your caseworker to give you a copy of your current budget. If your caseworker refuses, contact Legal Aid.
What if someone in my household receives income?
If this income is earned by a person legally responsible to provide support to the household it must be budgeted against your public assistance grant which in most cases will result in a reduction of your grant. However because you or someone else is working in your household some of the income will be “disregarded” or not budgeted against the public assistance grant. These disregards are for work expenses, day care expenses that you pay in order to work, medical expenses that Medicaid won’t pay and other disregards which are an incentive to continue working. All of these disregards appear in the right hand column of your public assistance budget. Check this column to see if you are receiving all the disregards to which you are entitled. The disregards will be subtracted from your monthly gross income (before taxes), and the amount of money to be budgeted against your public assistance grant will appear at the bottom of the column.
This figure is then subtracted from your standard of need which appeared in the left hand column. These calculations are made in the column in the middle of your public assistance budget worksheet. At the bottom of that column is the amount of your PUBLIC ASSISTANCE GRANT.
If you do not have any income your public assistance grant should be equal to your standard of need. If your household receives unearned income (Unemployment benefits, Social Security, etc.) your public assistance grant will be reduced dollar for dollar.
What is vouchering and do I have to do it?
Vouchering is when Social Services pays your landlord or National Grid by taking the money directly out of your grant and sending it to them for you. If you are on Safety Net Assistance (SNA), the program for people without children, you must be on voucher. If you are on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), the program for people with children, you have a choice if you want on to be on voucher. The middle column of your public assistance budget, the public assistance grant column, will have a RESTRICTED line and state the amount for each item that is on voucher.
What is a recoupment?
A recoupment is when Social Services states you have been overpaid and you must pay them back. The total amount of recoupment will appear in the lower left hand corner of your public assistance budget. It will also state the rate that you are being recouped, usually 10% of your STANDARD OF NEED, not of the public assistance grant. Therefore, if you receive other income along with your public assistance grant the recoupment will be more than 10% of your grant. The amount of your monthly recoupment will appear in the middle “public assistance grant” column and will say RECOUP and state the amount.
What if I disagree with my public assistance budget?
The first step is to speak with your caseworker. If that does not correct the problem request a fair hearing by calling 1-800-342-3334. You can also fill out a fair hearing request online at http://otda.ny.gov/hearings/request/ , fax a request form to 518-473-6735, or mail it to
New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance
Office of Administrative Hearings
P.O. Box 1930
Albany, NY 12201-1930
Tell them you want to request a fair hearing for a budget review. You will have a hearing scheduled in about 3 weeks. At the hearing explain what the problem is and show any proof that you might have. The State Hearing Office will recalculate your budget and send you a decision in about 3 weeks after the hearing.
|√ Always keep a current copy of your Public Assistance budget.|
|√ Report any wrong information on your budget to your caseworker.|
|√ Request a fair hearing if your caseworker will not correct the problem.|