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Sarah- overcoming everything

Sarah* is a 58 year old woman with a long work history, but the lagging job market has been a barrier to consistent employment, forcing her to move from one temporary job to another. So when her Unemployment Insurance benefits ran out in the autumn of 2014, she was forced to apply for help from the local Department of Social Services (DSS). Her total public assistance grant was only $425 per month, even though her rent alone costs $575 per month. An inadequate balance that low-income New Yorkers know all too well.

Her public assistance grant was meant to cover both her heating and shelter, which the DSS sent directly to her landlord. But after four months of receiving public assistance, Sarah received a utility shut off notice. She asked for help from DSS, and DSS paid her utilities with an emergency grant, a standard way of helping people in Sarah’s situation. However, DSS wrongfully calculated this one-time grant as an overpayment in her public assistance case, and started reducing her already small amount of public assistance in order to ‘recover’ the alleged overpayment—further reducing her public assistance.  As a result of her reduced monthly grant, her landlord threatened to evict her. 

Sarah came to Empire Justice for help. Our attorney represented her in a fair hearing and won. He showed that DSS had not followed the proper procedures in handling the energy emergency, and that DSS gave her a grant for the utility bill—it was not an overpayment in her case. By winning this hearing, Sarah started to receive the full amount of her public assistance grant again, her utilities were not shut off, and she avoided eviction. 

*name has been changed


professional female

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