New Report “Caught In The Gaps: How The Pitfalls Of Cash Assistance Programs Perpetuate Economic Insecurity For New Yorkers”


January 10, 2022 



Hosts Virtual Event With Assemblymember Rosenthal and State Senator Persaud On 1/11 To Push for Changes to New York’s Cash Assistance Programs 

New York, NY (January 10, 2022) – The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the longstanding disproportionate impact of economic insecurity and inequity along race and gender lines. These structural inequities pervade our current income support system, which often fails to accomplish the very goal it exists to achieve: Putting individuals and families on a path to long-term economic security. 

FPWA unpacks this issue with its newest investigative report, “Caught in the Gaps: How the pitfalls of cash assistance programs perpetuate economic insecurity for New Yorkers.” The report explores various financial gaps in New York State’s cash assistance programs, Family Assistance (FA) and Safety Net Assistance (SNA). 

Taking a deep-dive into the programs, their analysis shows that cash assistance covers only a small percentage of the New Yorkers who are experiencing economic deprivation, even as measured by the artificially low Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Approximately 500,000 New Yorkers receive FA and SNA each year, yet more than 2.5 million lived below the FPL in 2020. For the few able to access cash assistance, the report finds that the programs do not even cover the cost of recipients’ basic needs, preventing them from breaking free of the cycle of poverty. 

The report offers recommendations to reform the cash assistance programs on both the City and State levels, including increasing the FA and SNA benefit, expanding eligibility, simplifying the application and recertification processes, reforming work requirements, and reducing churn – the on-and-off enrollment pattern that characterizes many individuals’ experiences with benefit programs. These recommendations also include implementing a trauma-informed care approach for service delivery to shift the focus from compliance to collaboration with individuals and families receiving assistance. 

FPWA will host a virtual event on January 11, 2023, to share and discuss the report’s findings and key policy recommendations. At the event, FPWA will also preview their forthcoming advocacy efforts for 2023, which will include working with a statewide coalition to urge officials to adopt an array of solutions to improve cash assistance. The coalition will call on State legislators to advance a series of bills which would expand eligibility and increase the benefit level for all recipients. Speakers will include Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and State Senator Roxanne Persaud, who have sponsored legislation that would substantially increase the cash assistance grant for all recipients. 

“As we emerge from the pandemic with a clearer sense of the ongoing inequities endured by many New Yorkers, there could not be a more critical time to take a closer look at our current benefits system because the government’s COVID relief programs alone are not enough to alleviate economic deprivation,” said Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and Executive Director of FPWA. “While we work to disrupt and dismantle the systemic and structural forces that keep millions in poverty, we must also ensure that those relying on income supports, like cash assistance, have programs that operate effectively and efficiently in the short-term to help them meet their needs. This report shines a light on the many gaps we need to address as we work to reimagine cash assistance programs so that they also help foster a path to long-term economic security for New Yorkers with the lowest incomes.” 

“Our analysis lays bare the reality of the state’s cash assistance programs—an onerous application process, punitive work requirements that exacerbate racial inequities, restrictive eligibility criteria that mean cash assistance is inaccessible to most New Yorkers who are experiencing poverty, and benefit levels and asset limits that are immorally low,” said Raysa Rodriguez, Chief Policy and Program Officer of FPWA. “It’s clear that these programs are in desperate need of reform because the exclusionary and inadequate nature of the program as currently designed and administered perpetuates economic insecurity and means that those receiving it are unable to afford even their basic needs.” 

“New York’s monthly cash assistance benefits were far too low before the pandemic, but now as the need has only grown, these inadequate benefits are forcing thousands of households to survive on amounts well below the poverty level,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF – Manhattan), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Housing. “As outlined in FPWA’s new eye-opening report, it has become virtually impossible for families to pay rent and utilities, purchase groceries and cover all other basic necessities on decades-old grant levels. As the sponsor of a package of bills to finally increase our state’s cash assistance grants, I look forward to working with FPWA to achieve a meaningful increase that will help families achieve economic stability and escape poverty.” 

“This new report from FPWA includes timely data points that back up some of the systemic changes I have been fighting for as Chair of the Senate Social Services Committee”, said New York State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud.  “Too many New Yorkers living in poverty experience difficulty accessing benefits, and benefits they may receive will still fall short of meeting basic needs. As we continue our systems change work, we also need to reevaluate enduring old narratives around poverty and asking for help.” 

“FPWA’s report comes at a crucial time for our clients who are suffering without access to assistance for basic needs,” said Anne Callagy, Director of Government Benefits at The Legal Aid Society. “The State and City must use their power to remove hurdles to accessing benefits and raise the grant levels so that New Yorkers are no longer relegated to living in a state of deep poverty. Our clients can’t wait.” 

“Despite our state’s constitutional promise to provide “aid and care” for low-income New Yorkers, cash assistance leaves out too many New Yorkers in need. Empire Justice Center strongly supports FPWA’s recommendations, notably, increasing the shelter allowance and the non-shelter components of the cash assistance grants and extending the Child Tax Credit, as effective ways to immediately lift New Yorkers out of poverty,” said Jessica Radbord, a Senior Benefits Attorney in the Public Benefits Unit at Empire Justice Center. 


  • Raysa Rodriguez, Chief Policy and Program Officer of FPWA 
  • Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal 
  • State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud 


Wednesday, January 11; 10am 

About FPWA 

FPWA is an anti-poverty policy and advocacy organization committed to advancing economic opportunity, justice, and upward mobility for New Yorkers with low incomes. Since 1922, FPWA has driven groundbreaking policy reforms to better serve those in need. We work to dismantle the systemic barriers that impede economic security and well-being, and strengthen the capacity of human services agencies and faith organizations so New Yorkers with lower incomes can thrive and live with dignity. Find out more at, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 



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