How We Can Improve Access to Public Benefits to Reduce Child Poverty in NY

Testimony & Public Comments

April 29, 2024

On Monday, April 29, Juan Diaz, Policy and Advocacy Associate, submitted comments to the Child Poverty Reduction Advisory Council’s (CPRAC) Public Hearing on “Administrative Burdens” related to public benefits. On behalf of CCC, the comments address the multiple causes to services delays and access issues for New York families utilizing public benefits, and recommend program and policy alternatives to improve public benefits access and provide economic stability for vulnerable families with children.

Read the comments below.


Comments of Juan Diaz, Policy and Advocacy Associate
Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York
Submitted to the Child Poverty Reduction Advisory Council (CPRAC) Public Hearing on “Administrative Burdens” related to public benefits in New York City
April 29th, 2024

Since 1944, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York has served as an independent, multi-issue child advocacy organization. CCC does not accept or receive public resources, provide direct services, or represent a sector or workforce; our priority is improving outcomes for children and families through civic engagement, research, and advocacy. We document the facts, engage, and mobilize New Yorkers, and advocate for solutions to ensure that every New York child is healthy, housed, educated, and safe.

We would like to thank the Child Poverty Reduction Advisory Council (CPRAC) for holding this timely public hearing on administrative burdens related to public benefits in New York. In this testimony, we focus primarily on barriers impacting service delivery and access in New York City. The city’s housing and affordability crisis has led to a significant increase in demand for public benefits assistance, which requires effective service delivery solutions from the New York City Department of Homeless Services, the Human Resources Administration and the Department Housing Preservation and Development.

Currently, the number of households receiving cash assistance is 510,000, up 25 percent from the beginning of the current administration, and approximately 1.73 million New Yorkers receive SNAP. Although the backlog of public benefits applications has been reduced significantly, public benefits applications denials remain unacceptably high at 64 percent as of December 2023.i

There are multiple causes of service delays and access barriers. Chief among these are staff vacancies across city agencies like the Human Resources Administration, the Department of Homeless Services and the Department of Housing Preservation, all at near 10 percent.ii These staffing shortages have led to severe delays in interview scheduling and application approval processing, putting families at risk of losing their homes, facing longer lengths of stay in shelter, and experiencing food insecurity.

Additionally, several contracting and budget process issues have hindered the ability of city agencies and nonprofit organizations to deliver public benefits on time. Nonprofit organizations are struggling to pay their workforce due to late payments from the City, in some cases going back six months or more. These delays also prevent nonprofits from taking on more contract capacity to address rising needs within the City.

Additionally, the City lacks adequate language services for migrant families eligible for public benefits, as well as sufficient legal services so asylum seeking families can achieve security and economic independence. Additionally, many immigrant families still face fears related to accessing public benefits, a fear which was exacerbated because of the Public Charge rule advanced under the Trump Administration.

Public benefits bring stability and support to households in need and results in households spending benefits in local communities on food, transportation, and housing, resulting in an economic benefit for the city and state at large.

CCC strongly recommends the following program and policy alternatives to improve public benefits and provide economic stability for vulnerable families with children:

  • The City Administration should continue to improve Public Benefit access and retention by addressing HRA, DHS, and HPD staffing shortages and removing red tape such as repetitive paperwork. The Administration should collaborate with direct service providers to identify and address the greatest barriers to timely service access which could include:
    • resolving contracting and budget process issues, including by addressing its outdated contract and invoicing systems that lead to delayed payments for legal services, homeless services, and other critical supports that aid families and help prevent homelessness.
    • catching up on outstanding payments to contract providers and paying its future contracts on time.
    • addressing delays in processing immigration paperwork and related services, which not only limits access to critical services for migrant families, but also discourages providers from taking on new contracts to serve newly arrived migrants.
    • enhancing technology solutions such as optimizing ACCESS HRA, the public website that allows New York City residents to apply for multiple public benefits. Users and providers report numerous issues with the system, including lack of clarity on scheduling, challenges navigating the website, and system crashes.
  • The State Administration should act in ways that help counties improve public benefit access as well. Steps the State should consider include but need not be limited to:
    • Increase the Public Assistance housing allowance to a level that stabilizes housing for vulnerable families in receipt of Currently the PA housing allowance is $347 for a household of four and was last adjusted twenty years ago.
    • Return to a shared state-local funding partnership on all shelter In recent years, the state financial support for New York City shelter-related costs has greatly decreased, harming the city’s ability to provide services to families with children living in shelters. Returning to a shared state-local funding structure is essential to providing shelter services to families in need.
    • Implement a SNAP for All program, which would provide food benefits to households currently ineligible for SNAP because of their citizenship status. The first step is the creation of a task force to study the feasibility and impact of this program (A.9533/S.7692).
    • Implement an electronic benefit transfer system to improve the access to public benefits by using industry-standard commercial electronic funds transfer technology (S7823A).

The recommendations in this testimony will improve economic stability for New York City children and families. We thank the Child Poverty Reduction Advisory Council for holding this hearing and for listening to persons with lived experience and advocates striving to reduce poverty in New York State in half during the next decade.


i Emma Whitfort. “City Speeds Up Benefits Processing, But Cash Aid Denials Remain High”. City Limits online. March 11, 2024. high/
ii “Preliminary Mayor Management Report 2024”. NYC Mayor Office. January 2024.

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