De Blasio Administration Unveils Big Social Service Changes

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Mayor de Blasio appointed a long-time critic of the city's welfare policies to head HRA.

Photo by: Rob Bennett for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor de Blasio appointed a long-time critic of the city's welfare policies to head HRA.

On a day when the city agencies who manage social welfare programs and the homeless shelter system testified separately at City Hall, Mayor de Blasio's new commissioner for the Human Resources Administration pointed to a connection between the two: More than one in eight people who had their welfare benefits reduced or terminated in the 2012-13 fiscal year ended up in a homeless shelter.

That was one reason cited for a substantial overhaul of policies around public benefits that have irked advocates for the poor during the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations.

Among the changes that HRA boss Steve Banks highlighted was a decision to—after years of New York City refusing the help—apply for a waiver to permit unemployed adults without disabilities or kids to get food stamps beyond a federal time limit.

Another was a move to “support the provision in the recently enacted State budget that offers four years of college as an option to HRA clients as part of mandated training and employment initiatives.” Previous mayors resisted counting anything other that paid work as satisfying the personal responsibility requirements of welfare reform.

Banks testified that in 2012-2013, 13.8 percent of the 50,000 people who were “sanctioned” by HRA (meaning they had their welfare reduced or suspended) entered the shelter system after that happened.

While it can't yet be established that the sanction triggered the homelessness, it can't have helped.

Read more about the changes HRA plans here.

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