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Empire Justice Testimony on the New York State Supplement Program

June 14, 2017

 

Introduction

My name is Raymond Burke, and I am a Staff Attorney in the Albany office of Empire Justice Center.  Thank you for the opportunity to testify today about the State Supplement Program (SSP).

Empire Justice Center is a statewide civil legal aid and systems change organization with offices in Albany, Rochester, Westchester and on Long Island.  We provide support and training to legal aid and other community based organizations, undertake policy research and analysis, and engage in legislative and administrative advocacy.  We also represent low income individuals, as well as classes of New Yorkers, in a wide range of poverty law areas including health, public assistance, domestic violence and SSI/SSD benefits.

Before I begin my testimony, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the efforts that the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) has made to work with advocates to resolve individual cases since taking over the administration of the State Supplement Program.  In particular, we appreciate that the SSP Unit at OTDA has created an email address to facilitate communication with advocates, which has been helpful in resolving issues on a case-by-case basis.  We have brought many of the concerns that I will discuss today to OTDA’s attention, and appreciate that OTDA has agreed to have further discussion about some of the issues.  Nonetheless, there is still a lot of work to be done to address systemic issues that we and our colleagues see in representing clients who have issues accessing their SSP benefits. 

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are federally funded benefits provided to persons who are elderly and disabled, and who have no other income or very little income.  Currently, the monthly federal benefit rate is $735.00 for an individual.  States have the option to provide a supplement to these federal benefits, and New York does so by providing $87.00 per month for persons determined to be “Living Alone” and $23.00 per month for persons determined to be “Living with Others.”  Until September 2014, the federal government administered New York’s SSP program.  After that date, New York took over the administration of SSP benefits. 

This testimony will address three issues:

  1. The concerning trend in data about the number of SSP recipients categorized as “Living with Others” versus those categorized as “Living Alone” since the state takeover of SSP;
  2. Problems with the initial notice that SSP recipients receive about their eligibility for benefits and the Living Arrangement Form that recipients are instructed to fill out when they first become eligible for benefits; and
  3. Our concern that SSP recipients no longer have direct contact with caseworkers who can help determine the appropriate benefit level for recipients.


CLICK HERE to read our entire testimony.

For more information, please contact:


Catherine M. Callery (Kate)

Empire Justice Center
Telesca Center for Justice
One West Main Street, Suite 200
Rochester, NY  14614 


(585) 454-4060
(585) 454-4019
kcallery@empirejustice.org



Susan C. Antos

Empire Justice Center
119 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY  12210 


(518) 462-6831
(518) 935-2852
santos@empirejustice.org



Louise M. Tarantino

Empire Justice Center
119 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY  12210 


(518) 462-6831
(518) 935-2852
ltarantino@empirejustice.org