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Cash Benefits

Cash Assistance: Changes under COVID-19

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Summary

Eligibility requirements for Cash Assistance remains the same. However, the application process and program requirements have been modified under COVID-19. Changes include how to apply for Cash Assistance, replacement of in-person interviews with telephone interviews, suspended program requirements, extended recertifications and more.

The NYC Human Resource Administration (HRA) has published many of these changes at https://www1.nyc.gov/site/hra/important-information-about-covid-19-and-your-hra-benefits.page. For HRA’s FAQ, visit: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/hra/help/dss-covid19-faqs.page.

If you are a Benefits Plus subscriber, for additional information on Cash Assistance, refer to Cash Benefits, Cash Assistance. For subscription information visit: https://bplc.cssny.org/home/subscription_options.

Changes in Cash Assistance Application Procedures

APPLICATION

The application for Cash Assistance remains the same; it is the LDSS-2921 and can be found at http://otda.ny.gov/programs/applications.

JOB CENTERS

Typically, Cash Assistance applicants would apply at their local district, in NYC it is an HRA Job Center, for other districts go to https://otda.ny.gov/workingfamilies/dss.asp.

Currently not all HRA Job Centers are open. To find open Job Centers, visit https://www1.nyc.gov/site/hra/locations/job-locations-and-service-centers.page. Applicants/recipients should not visit a Job Center unless absolutely necessary.

ONLINE APPLICATIONS

Applicants in NYC are strongly encouraged to use ACCESS HRA, http://www.nyc.gov/ACCESSHRA. ACCESS HRA is an online portal where Cash Assistance and Emergency Assistance applications may be completed and submitted. For help with creating an account and user guides, click here.

Required documentation can be submitted (uploaded) electronically via the HRA Mobile app found on Apple Store or Google Play.

ACCESS HRA Training Webinars

HRA is offering training webinars on ACCESS HRA that provides guidance on the Cash Assistance application process. These trainings are open to everyone. In addition, HRA allows CBO’s and elected officials access to a client’s case through the ACCESS HRA Provider Portal case management tool. This tool allows CBO’s to assist their clients with the application process, recertification and other challenges their clients may face. The client must grant access to the CBO to allow them to view their case.

APPLICATIONS VIA PHONE

Households can apply for CA via the HRA Infoline at 718-557-1399. There is a waiver in place for the application signature for the CA applications through August 31, 2020. This waiver permits HRA staff to complete applications over the phone and sign on behalf of clients who are not able to complete applications independently using ACCESS HRA.

HOMEBOUND APPLICANTS

Home Bound clients and individuals with disabilities who cannot or do not want to use ACCESS HRA can request a Home Visit, which is available by calling Constituent Services: 212-331-4640, 311 or emailing Ctr90HVNRequests@hra.nyc.gov . Staff conducting these home visits will adhere to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s guidelines and protocols for such visits. HRA has implemented a process to waive signatures for Cash Assistance applications for clients who are homebound. This waiver expires on August 31, 2020.

ELIGIBILITY INTERVIEWS

While typically an eligibility interview is required for all Cash Assistance applicants, eligibility interviews, drug/alcohol screenings and domestic violence screenings will now take place over the phone through September 4, 2020. A Job Center worker will call the applicant to complete the interview.

RESOURCES

Center for Independence of the Disabled
https://www.cidny/nyconnects
844-862-7930

Can assist with the application/recertification process and needed documentation.

Changes in Cash Assistance Recertification Procedures

RECERTIFICATIONS THAT ARE EXPIRING

OTDA issued guidance the week of October 12th extending Cash recertifications through December 31, 2020 and will reassess the need to extend beyond that date up to the June 31, 2021 date authorized in the Federal appropriations Continuing Resolution. Cases that have previously received a recertification six-month extension for Cash Assistance and/or SNAP benefits are not eligible for a second extension of the recertification period under the new waiver extension. Those who are eligible for an extension on recertification may receive up to a six-month extension.

Signature Requirement

NYC has received an extension through August 31st for a Cash Assistance signature waiver for applications taken over the phone by HRA staff using ACCESS HRA. This option is available for recipients who are homebound or have challenges using ACCESS HRA.

REPORTING CHANGES IN RESIDENCE

Recipients are required to receive Cash Assistance benefits in the county where they reside. Recipients who travel outside of their district for a limited period of time are permitted to do so without reporting a change. Those who plan to change their residence need to report to the district where they have been living. That district will note the change and close the case, with the district maintaining responsibility for benefits for the month following the month of the move. Clients may then file with the new local district office once they have moved.

REPORTING CHANGES IN INCOME

Cash Assistance recipients should report income changes, including the loss of a job, via ACCESS HRA. Documentation may include paystubs, employer letter, layoff/termination letter, or attestation of loss of employment form a client when one cannot be obtained from their employer.

CASH ASSISTANCE SIX MONTH MAILER

There will be no negative action for Cash Assistance recipients who do not complete a CA Six-Month Mailer.

Changes in the Cash Assistance Program Requirements

OVERVIEW

Cash Assistance program requirements have not been eliminated, but certain procedures have been suspended and all in-person appointments have been deferred through September 4, 2020.

No negative action will be taken for recipients who miss a scheduled appointment at a Job Center, as well as other HRA offices, which includes the Office of Child Support Services and Career Service providers during the pandemic.

WORK REQUIREMENTS

Districts must continue to suspend all required in-person work activity assignments until further notice.

Employment Assessments

Districts are required to complete employment assessments and employment plans for applicants and recipients within 90 days of the date of eligibility for households with dependent children.

During this public health crisis, employment assessments and employment plans should be completed via telephone contact.

Good Cause

Any Cash Assistance recipient unable to comply with a work activity must be granted good cause if their inability to comply is due to COVID-19 until further notice.

COVID-19 issues may include the inability of individuals to attend agency employment appointments, including work activity assignments, due to factors such as lack of transportation, lack of child-care, worksite closures, or legitimate concerns about using public transportation or other factors regarding work participation

Sanctions

HRA has lifted employment sanctions for CA recipients who contact HRA and state a willingness to comply, and have suspended all employment-related requirements. Demonstrated compliance is suspended until further notice.

HRA has also called clients with an employment sanction to inquire if they are willing to comply. When HRA was able to successfully reach these households, and when these households agreed to comply, HRA lifted their non-durational sanctions. Demonstrated compliance can be established by expressing a willingness to comply in the future.

CHILD SUPPORT

The New York City Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) Borough Offices and Customer Service Walk-In Center will be closed until further notice. In addition, the New York City Family Courts are also closed for child support matters.

Households with a child support sanction can restore Cash Assistance and Medicaid benefits by informing the NY City Office of Child Support Services that they are willing to comply with the child support program. Clients can call 929-221-7676 or email dcse.cseweb@dfa.state.ny.us , or write to the NYC Office of Child Support Services, PO Box 830, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013. Clients should provide their name, case number and contact information.

Letters were mailed to clients with a child support sanction informing them of this. For more information go to https://www1.nyc.gov/site/hra/help/child-support-services.page.

DRUG AND ALCOHOL SCREENINGS

Applicants/recipients (A/R) must complete a drug and alcohol screenings by phone with HRA staff through September 4, 2020. A/R can be sanctioned for failure to comply, if they do not have good cause for completing a telephone screening.

A/Rs should not be sanctioned for non-compliance with drug and alcohol treatment, if an in-person contact with providers is required.

DOMESTIC VILOENCE WAIVERS

Domestic violence waivers set to expire between March 7, 2020 and September 3rd are extended through September 4, 2020.

Cash Assistance and Medicaid

Discontinued Cash Assistance cases that require a separate Medicaid eligibility determination will have Medicaid coverage extended until further notice.

Lost EBT Cards

Lost cards should be reported immediately to prevent fraudulent use. If an applicant/recipient has lost their EBT card, call the NYS OTDA at 888-328-6399 to cancel the card and request a replacement by mail.

Replacement by mail will take 5-7 days for households to receive their card. Cards can also be requested by setting up can online EBT account at https://www.connectebt.com. Clients can use this account to request a replacement card, check card balance, review transaction history, change a PIN, and more.

If there is an emergency and recipients must obtain a replacement card on the same day, they have the option to visit an Over the Counter (OTC) site. OTC site is open from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm. To pick up a replacement card the individual must have a valid photo ID and visit the Brooklyn OTC site at 227 Schermerhorn Street – Ground Floor.

How COVID-19 Cash Aid Impacts Cash Assistance

CORONAVIRUS ECONOMIC IMPACT PAYMENTS

The CARES Act Economic Impact payments (EIP) (up to $1,200 per individual, $500 per qualifying child) are not countable for Cash Assistance (CA). However, resource/asset rules are different.

For CA households the EIP will be excluded as a lump sum for the month of receipt and the following two months.

Case Example

A household receives the payment(s) in April 2020, HRA will not count it as income or a resource for April. In May and June, it will be exempt it as a resource.
In July, if the household has remaining funds from the EIP, HRA will count the remaining funds as a non-exempt resource.

PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

The $600 per week in Pandemic Unemployment Compensation will count as unearned income when determining eligibility for CA. (https://otda.ny.gov/policy/gis/2020/20DC035.pdf)

Retroactive UIB payments will be subject to CA lump sum rules.

The current $600 weekly Unemployment Insurance Benefit (UIB) Pandemic Unemployment supplement established under the federal CARES Act expired on July 31, 2020. While the future of this benefit is being determined at a federal level, all cases that were receiving the $600 supplement will be re-budgeted at recertification to ensure that all benefits are maximized, and no errors are made in budgeting.

Households who were previously rejected for Cash Assistance because of the $600 supplement and believe they are now eligible should re-apply. Households who are not due for recertification and are no longer in receipt of the $600 supplement should submit a request for rebudgeting.

For more information on the expanded unemployment benefits refer to COVID-19 Resources, Expansion of Unemployment Insurance.