COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS) UPDATES
Because of the of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic, courts, agencies and other governmental agencies have made many temporary changes to their policies and procedures. This informational post is part of a series put together by Neighborhood Legal Services to keep you informed of these changes. Neighborhood Legal Services will update these informational posts regularly.
If you have questions about any of the below, please contact Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc. If you live in Erie or Niagara county, call (716) 847-0650. If you live in Genesee, Wyoming or Orleans county, call (585) 343-5450. Neighborhood Legal Services (NLS) is not able to accept walk-in clients at this time. If you need help, please do not come to our office. Our reception staff will answer your calls and connect you with an NLS advocate who can help you with your legal problem.
HOW DO I APPLY OR RECERTIFY FOR SNAP DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?
You can still apply for SNAP by filling out a paper application and dropping it off, mailing, faxing it, or applying on the NYS MyBenefits site. The MyBenefits site can be reached by clicking the button below.
Like Temporary Assistance, New York State automatically recertified SNAP cases for three months. Now, all cases that are expiring in June 2020 have been recertified through September 2020.
If you started the recertification process but could not return documents because of COVID-19, call the SNAP office or your worker. If you don’t get your benefits and can’t resolve the problem, contact our office for assistance.
In a few cases, DSS may not even need to complete an interview. You may be eligible for Expedited SNAP benefits. If you are eligible for expedited or emergency SNAP, you will get your SNAP benefits in five (5) calendar days.
SNAP work requirements for some people (called ABAWD) were supposed to start in April, 2020. Those requirements have been suspended because of COVID-19.
ARE EMERGENCY BENEFITS AVAILABLE DURING THE PANDEMIC?
Yes. Expedited SNAP benefits are SNAP benefits you can get quickly when you apply for SNAP.
Expedited SNAP is not a new program. You and members of your household may be eligible for them if you are in one of the following categories:
- Your household has $100 or less in liquid resources and less than $150 in gross monthly income. Liquid resources are money that is available to you, such as cash on hand, bank accounts, savings certificates, and lump-sum payments (tax refunds, retroactive lump-sum Social Security, SSI, or public assistance payments); or
- You are a migrant or seasonal farm worker without money or resources; or
- At the time of application, your monthly income and liquid resources are less than your monthly rent/mortgage plus heating/utility costs and utilities (including telephone expenses). This amount for any household size is $661 in 2020.
You will be screened for Expedited SNAP benefits. The only verification needed during the COVID-19 emergency is verification of identity. If you have had benefits in the past the department of social services may already have that verification. The screening must be conducted within a day of your
request for Expedited SNAP benefits. You must receive your expedited SNAP benefits within 5 calendar days if you are eligible. If you do not hear from the SNAP office for the screening, please contact the local SNAP office immediately and ask to be screened for expedited SNAP benefits.
ARE ANY ADDITIONAL BENEFITS AVAILABLE?
Many SNAP households do not get the maximum amount of SNAP benefits. During this crisis New York has decided to increase benefits to those households so that all SNAP households get the maximum amount of benefits during the emergency. The extra benefits have been authorized for March, April, May, June, July, August and September of 2020 and may be extended if the emergency continues.
How will I know if I qualify for the extra SNAP amount?
Look at the chart included below. If you usually get less than the maximum amount for your household size, you will get extra benefits for March, April, May, and June of 2020. For example, a household with 4 people is eligible for a maximum of $646 in SNAP per month. If that household usually only receives $350 per month, they will get a supplement of $296 for March, April, May, June, July and August of 2020. If your household already gets the maximum amount you will not get a supplement.
|Household Size||Maximum Allotment*|
|For each additional member||$153 +|
What do I have to do to get the additional benefits?
Nothing. The state knows which households are eligible and will issue the benefits automatically. You will not get a notice.
What are Pandemic-EBT benefits and how can I get them?
Pandemic EBT benefits are a replacement for school meals for children who receive free or reduced price school meals. If your child is eligible for free or reduced price school meals and you receive Temporary (cash) Assistance, SNAP, or Medicaid, the money will be added to your card. If you do not receive any of those benefits, you will get a temporary EBT (electronic benefit transfer) card that will have the benefits on it. You should receive $5.70 for each child for each day that school is cancelled (approximately $420 per child). The benefits will be issued between early June 2020 and early August 2020.
WILL MY SNAP STOP BECAUSE OF COVID-19?
No – you will keep receiving your SNAP benefits as normal.
WHAT ABOUT MY WORK ASSIGNMENT? DO I HAVE TO GO TO THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES TO COMPLETE MY ASSESSMENT/PLAN?
Call your local Department of Social Services (see all numbers at the bottom) for questions about work requirements, assessments, and plans. Remember, the Department of Social Services must forgive you if you have not been able to complete your work activities because of COVID-19.
You can complete work assessments and work plans by telephone.
WILL STIMULUS MONEY COUNT AGAINST SNAP?
If you already have SNAP benefits when you get the money, it will not count against your benefits for 12 months. If you still have some money left over after 12 months, it will be counted toward the resource limit (if you have one).
If you are just applying for SNAP, the money will not count for the first two (2) months (the month you get the money and the following month). Any left over money you have after the second month will count against the resource limit; but very few types of SNAP households have a resource limit. Check with your worker to see about your case to know for sure. You can also call our office and we will help you find out.
ONLINE GROCERY SHOPPING.
You may use SNAP benefits to buy groceries online.
You can use SNAP benefits to buy groceries from Amazon. In some zip codes, you can shop from Walmart and Shoprite. You can go on the Walmart or ShopRite website to find out whether you can shop from them online. Depending where you live, Walmart may deliver to your home.
However, keep in mind that you can’t use SNAP benefits to pay delivery fees.
WHAT IF I AM DENIED AND NEED HELP?
If you or someone you know needs help or have been denied these benefits or services, call our office at 847-0650 immediately. Ask to speak to an advocate from the Health and Economic Security Unit. We can review your situation and we may agree to take your case.
CAN I STILL REQUEST A FAIR HEARING?
Yes. Most hearings are being done by telephone, but you have the right to request an in-person hearing if you want it. Some hearings are being re-scheduled so they can be handled by phone. If you don’t have a phone or cannot make it to the hearing, ask for an adjournment. DSS will give you another date and time.
Make sure to include a phone number when you request a hearing so someone can call you. If you get a notice scheduling the fair hearing and did not give a phone number, call the Office of Administrative Hearings at 1 (800) 342-3334 to give them a phone number.
HOW DO I REQUEST A FAIR HEARING?
You can request a Fair Hearing:
By Phone: Statewide Toll-free 1-800-342-3334: Fair Hearing Requests & Inquiries
New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA)
Office of Administrative Hearings
P.O. Box 1930 Albany, New York 12201-1930
By Fax: 1 (518) 473-6735
WNY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES PHONE NUMBERS
- Allegany – (585) 268-9622
- Cattaraugus – (716) 373-8065
- Chautauqua – (716) 363-3500
- Erie – (716) 858-8000
- Genesee – (585) 344-2580
- Niagara – (716) 278-8400
- Orleans – (585) 589-7000 (press 4 for Department of Social Services)
- Wyoming – (585) 786-8900
45 Main Street
Batavia, NY 14020
Serving Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming Counties
237 Main Street, Ste. 400
Buffalo, NY 14203
Serving Erie County
NIAGARA FALLS OFFICE
225 Old Falls Street 3rd Floor
Niagara Falls, NY 14302
Serving Niagara County
NLS will not provide legal advice over the internet. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from State to State, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your jurisdiction. Finally, the information contained in this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your state.