Turning away from Bloomberg administration reforms aimed at preventing fraud, New York City on Monday announced sweeping changes that will remove some barriers to receiving public assistance, The New York Times reported.
Among the changes announced by Steven Banks, the new commissioner of the Human Resources Administration, childless adults will no longer have to work full time to receive food stamps.
The agency also will run a pilot program allowing people with an illness or family emergency to receive welfare for up to five excused absences from their employment programs.
It also will create a system using calls or text messages to remind welfare recipients of appointments with agency staff.
Banks, who until recently was a critic of the city’s public assistance policies as an attorney for the Legal Aid Society, spent a substantial part of his recent City Hall testimony describing what he called the unnecessarily punitive nature of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s approach to welfare.
In addition, the Daily News reported that de Blasio has quietly stopped requiring immigrants’ sponsors to repay the city if the people they helped go on welfare. The administration is also refunding close to $1 million to 250 New Yorkers who were compelled to pay under the Bloomberg policy.
The payback policy stems from a 1997 federal law, which requires sponsors of immigrants to sign a contract saying they are financially responsible if the people they sponsored accept some public benefits.
The federal government never enforced the law, and no city adopted the policy until Bloomberg took it up in 2012. He exempted low-income sponsors and victims of abuse.
Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Lilliam Barrios-Paoli said the de Blasio administration ended the paybacks in February because it was “wrong.”
“These people are our neighbors. They pay taxes. And they deserve better,” he said.