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Lawmaker proposes added safety net benefits

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  • Staff Report 

New York Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas has proposed a measure that would require the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to reimburse victims of identity theft who have had their safety net assistance and family aid stolen within a week of the theft being verified.

The proposal is a broader version of a measure included in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $227 billion budget that seeks to reimburse New Yorkers whose benefits under the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program have been skimmed. However, González-Rojas’ measure seeks to address victims who have seen a significant portion of their public assistance skimmed.

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Under the proposed measure, thefts of benefits that have occurred on or after January 1, 2022, would qualify for reimbursement. Victims would be reimbursed the lesser amount of the public assistance that was stolen or the amount provided during the two most recent months prior to the theft.

“Doing this at a maximum of two times or only reimbursing from October of last year onward does not address the public benefits that were stolen before that period,” González-Rojas said.

The proposal is also aimed at combating fraud by introducing more secure computer chip cards that would allow beneficiaries to access their benefits in New York.

González-Rojas said the measure would provide critical relief to New Yorkers struggling with higher prices at grocery stores and ongoing inflation. She believes the federal government’s requirement of reimbursing the lesser amount of public assistance stolen is not enough to protect those who have had their safety net assistance and family aid stolen.

“It is our job to support them during these times and that means ensuring that the crisis of public benefit skimming is addressed,” she said. “No one should have to decide between purchasing food or paying bills.”