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Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Sanctions, Agency Error, and Financial Punishment within New York State's Welfare System

GUPI_1In these difficult times, it's vitally important that our social protection programs meet the needs of low-income people. Providing welfare assistance in a respectful and efficient manner reduces individual hardship and stimulates local economies. But too many New Yorkers in need of this critical assistance face an obstacle course of barriers in applying for and maintaining welfare support. As a result, many households face serious hardship.

One of the big barriers to support is the system of sanctions, which punish welfare recipients for alleged infractions by reducing or eliminating financial supports. Sanctions are often imposed in error. Administrative mistakes, inadequate screening, and inappropriate workfare assignments are all too common, and result in significant numbers of inappropriate sanctions.

This report details the depth of these errors, and how they hurt vulnerable individuals and families. Among other areas, it explores the impacts sanctions have on people with disabilities, children, and victims of domestic violence. It also examines the violations of legal standards for determining whether a recipient has "good cause" for not meeting a requirement, and the agency's failure to meet their "duty to assist" clients. It details how specific programs exacerbate the problems created by sanctions, and recommends alternative policies to the existing sanctions system.

You can view the report now FPWA Sanction Report pdf (1995551 bytes), or contact Emily Miles for more info.

For more information about FPWA's work in eliminating inappropriate barriers to welfare, learn about our
Access to Assistance Campaign.


FPWA's substantial team of expert policy analysts work closely with our member agencies and in numerous strategic collaborations to influence budget and legislative outcomes that positively impact human services organizations and the children, families and individuals they serve.

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Policy, Advocacy & Research pdf (121513 bytes)