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Memorandum of Support

Empire Justice Memo of Support: Support Access to Education and Training for the Poorest New Yorkers

S.1419 (Montgomery)/A.3473 (Wright)

Amends Social Services Law §§335-a, 336, 336-a & 131-n

This bill provides that four year college can be counted as part of a public assistance recipient’s work activity, and that where a recipient makes a reasonable and appropriate request to be assigned to a particular activity, that request should, where feasible, be granted.

What S.1419/A.3473 Does:

  • Improves Access to Education.  Lack of sufficient education and skills poses a major obstacle to decent paying employment.  For example, individuals with a high school degree or equivalent are far more likely than those without the degree to find work.  And when they do find work, it is generally for more hours per week and at higher level of pay. [1] Virtually every additional educational milestone, from basic literacy to a college degree, enhances employability.
  • Affords the Recipient Access to College.  A college degree provides perhaps the single best path off of welfare and out of poverty.  Close to 90% of recipients who attain a college degree leave welfare for the long term.[2]
  • Relies on District Discretion.  For its success, this law will depend on districts conducting quality assessments of individuals’ capacities and needs and determining the most appropriate activities for that person. 

What S.1419/A.3473 Does Not Do:

  • Does Not impose new costs on the state or the districts.  While the Assembly has predicted that the bill will have minimal fiscal impact, the NYS Division of Budget and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) have projected no fiscal impact at all.
  • Does Not limit local discretion.  With the addition of a four year college option, districts have one more activity to which recipients may be assigned.  The bill ensures that the district retains the right and the responsibility to assign recipients to activities that are consistent with the recipient’s assessment and employability plan.
  • Does Not impede the district’s or the state’s ability to meet its participation rates.  The federal government now permits states to count four year college as a work activity (a change made during the Bush administration).  In addition, S.1419/A.3473 makes clear that the district’s obligation to honor recipient requests is subject to the mandate to meet state and federal participation requirements.

The federal government and a growing number of states have recognized how crucial education is, not only to individual and family well-being but to the economic and social well-being of the state.  It is time for New York to recognize this fundamental principle and apply it to the poorest residents of our state by embracing this bill.

End Notes:
 [1] Treshan and Fischer, “From Basic Skills to Better Futures:  Generating Economic Dividends for New York City,” Community Service Society, September 2009.
 [2] Gittell, Schehl, and Fareri, “From Welfare to Independence: The College Option,” Howard Samuels State Management and Policy Center, New York, NY, 1990.  See also Kahn, Butler, Deprez and Polakow (editors), Shut Out: Low-Income Mothers and Higher Education in Post-Welfare America, SUNY Press, Albany, NY (2004).  This book reviews research demonstrating that women who complete two or four year college “…work more steadily, find jobs related to their fields of study, earn higher wages, receive more post-employment training, and report higher levels of family well-being.”

This memo was prepared by:

Don Friedman

Empire Justice Center
at the Public Advocacy Center
Touro Law School
225 Eastview Drive-Room 222
Central Islip, NY  11722

(631) 650-2316
(631) 348-3571