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Public Benefits

The public benefits practice at Empire Justice Center provides support to advocates helping low-income New Yorkers access public benefit programs, particularly cash assistance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, as well as other benefit programs such as Unemployment Insurance Benefits and Veterans Assistance. Empire Justice provides technical assistance and training, takes referrals of complex cases, and engages in policy advocacy and, when necessary, litigation to tackle systemic barriers to accessing benefits.  


Updated SNAP Budget Worksheets for New York State
Updated SNAP (food stamps) budget worksheet from Hunger Solutions New York, with previous years’ worksheets from Empire Justice Center. Read More

Amendments to the Welfare Work Rules: Financial Literacy and Non-Traditional Jobs
A new law has been signed by Governor Cuomo that will modify the public assistance work rules aimed at helping women gain greater access to jobs in traditionally male-dominated fields, and encouraging participation in financial literacy and personal finance instruction. To some degree, the structure of the new law may limit its effectiveness, but advocates and welfare recipients should be aware of the possible opportunities the legislation may offer. Read More


Empire Justice Center Statement on Governor Cuomo's Hate and Human Rights Laws Expansion
The horrifying events that transpired in Charlottesville this past weekend showed us all that we have a long road ahead of us to reach a place where hate has no home in our hearts. We all have a responsibility to stand for what it right. Read More

Empire Justice Stands with Immigrants & Their Families
Empire Justice Center is proud to be one of more than 180 organizations across the country to stand up and speak out against the completely un-American attack on immigrants proposed by Senators David Perdue (R-GA) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), and championed by President Donald Trump. Read More


Empire Justice Testimony on the New York State Supplement Program
Empire Justice Center testimony on the impact that State takeover has had on the administration of the State Supplement Program and delivery of benefits to eligible recipients. Read More

Empire Justice Memo of Support: Require Local Districts to Credit the Minimum Wage Value of Workfare when Recovering Properly Paid Public Assistance
When an individual works off their grant by participation in workfare, it's only fair that the value of that work be credited against any recovery that the local district is entitled to make. Read More



Policy Matters October 2017
Empire Justice Center's latest edition of Policy Matters. Read More



Turn up the Heat: It’s Time to Raise New York’s Shelter and Fuel Allowances
Turn up the Heat illustrates how the public assistance shelter and fuel allowances are so far out of step with the actual costs of housing and heating, they are pushing many financially fragile New Yorkers out of homes and into homelessness. Read More


Driven into Poverty: How New York's Asset Tests Keep People Poor
Empire Justice Center’s new report, “Driven into Poverty: How New York’s Asset Tests Keep People Poor” explores the need for policy change that recognizes that it’s counter-intuitive to make people who have scrimped, saved and pinched pennies for the future impoverish themselves to get the temporary help they need to make ends meet. Read More





Representing Clients with Disabilities in the Welfare Context: How to Use the Law to Help Clients with Disabilities Access Public Benefits
This session first offers tips for recognizing and working with clients with disabilities. Then, it will also provide an overview of the legal framework for disability advocacy in the welfare context. Finally, it examines selected welfare issues and how they impact clients with disabilities. This will include, for example, reasonable accommodations, the application process, the work requirements and the rules relating to drug and alcohol use. This session examines both administrative advocacy and litigation. Read More

Collateral Consequences of Attorney Fee Awards, Cash Settlements or Damages
This session identifies the potential impact of damage awards, cash settlements and attorney fee awards on tax liability, means tested benefits, and vulnerability to creditors. It provides an example of an award in a Fair Labor Standards Act case involving a public assistance recipient who has participated in workfare, and covers the use of Supplemental Needs Trusts to protect cash settlements and awards Read More