Welfare rolls increasing in city, even as economy improves

Written By kom nampuldu on Minggu, 08 Maret 2015 | 18.18

Welfare is making a comeback under Mayor de Blasio, with 13,000 more New Yorkers on the dole by the end of his first year in office, according to a new report obtained by The Post.

Enrollment in the city's cash ­assistance program swelled by 4 percent in 2014 to 352,596 — one of the biggest increases in more than a decade, the Manhattan ­Institute found.

The rise comes even as the city's economy has prospered — some 90,000 jobs were added in 2014, according to the "Poverty and Progress in New York" report ­being released Tuesday.

"If government dependence on welfare is rising in a good economy, what's going to happen in a bad economy?" wondered study author Stephen Eide, who said the trend was antithetical to data dating back to around 1960.

The surprising uptick, reformers say, is partly by design. De Blasio's pick to head the $10 billion Human Resources Administration, Steven Banks, is a proponent of loosening welfare restrictions.

With Banks at the helm, the HRA launched a series of sweeping changes in its state-approved Biennial Employment Plan, including changing requirements for welfare recipients with kids younger than 4 years old. Recipients previously had to clock a 35-hour workweek to get their checks.

Welfare recipients can now substitute full-time education — ­including GED preparation — for their work requirement.

The de Blasio administration is also phasing out the Giuliani-era Work Experience Program, which gave welfare recipients jobs in city agencies, in favor of "additional job search, work study or internships for cash assistance clients with recent work histories or with advanced degrees," the report notes.

The cash assistance program — $1.5 billion in 2014 — provides individuals with about $506 a month or $828 for a family of three. State law requires that adults work for their benefits — but HRA has authority to "define compliance."

Penalties for noncompliance — missing an appointment with an HRA caseworker, for example — are now "much less likely to lead to sanctions or case closings," the report states.

"This growth at a time when the economy is strong is concerning to those who care about a work-focused welfare system," said Robert Doar, an HRA commissioner under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"The city will be more helpful to poor New Yorkers if it sticks with the policies that made clear that welfare recipients need to move rapidly into a job. More welfare combined with less work will surely lead to more poverty and nobody should want that," added Doar, a Resident Fellow in Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Banks — who spent years suing the city over its homeless and welfare policies — "believes that the best way to reduce dependency is a combination of education and training and less zeal in enforcing program rules and requirements," according to the report.

In Bloomberg's 12 years in office, welfare rolls dropped by about 100,000 people, Eide noted.

The HRA blasted the report's methodology, which examined the agency's own monthly numbers from January to December 2014.

"If you look at the wrong numbers . . . you don't understand what's really going on. People go on and off during the year and won't be counted in some months," said HRA spokesman David Neustadt.


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