Proposed Council Bill Seeks Feasibility of Universal Benefits Application

Image credit: New York City Council.

A universal application for city benefit programs might be coming to New York City. On February 2, 2023, Councilmember Crystal Hudson introduced Introduction 910 to the City Council. The bill would mandate the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services to complete and publish a report on the feasibility of creating a universal benefits application for city benefit programs. Should the creation of a universal application be deemed feasible, it would allow individuals to use only one application to apply for any and all city benefits. The bill will also codify the website Access NYC as the primary screening tool for the public to check their eligibility for public benefits.

The bill defines city benefits as all forms of public assistance provided by New York City for which a city resident may apply, through an application designed and administered by a city agency. The bill defines public assistance as all forms of government benefits (such as housing or financial assistance) provided by the federal government, New York State or New York City that a NYC resident may apply.

The feasibility report must be published by December 31, 2023. The report must include the Commissioner’s findings on the utility and feasibility of synchronizing city benefit eligibility criteria, identifying and assessing means to shorten the length of a universal city benefits application, any risks associated with creating a synchronized application, and any issues associated with data collection and storage across city agencies. The bill further provides that the creation of a universal application would not prohibit an individual from applying to any city benefit. This provision of the bill allows individuals who may only need access to one city benefit to apply directly for that benefit without seeking additional public assistance.

The bill is the result of many constituent complaints regarding the difficulty of applying for public assistance. The current application process involves submitting a different application for each kind of public assistance needed, which becomes onerous on people who do not have the time or resources to dedicate to locating and filling out the correct application.

The bill was sent to the City Council Committee on General Welfare for further review.

By: Samantha Silverstein (Samantha is  a New York Law School student, Class of 2024.)




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