SOTA Letter to OTDA

Samuel D. Roberts, Commissioner
New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance
40 North Pearl Street
Albany, New York 12243 Dear Commissioner Roberts: I am writing to express my concerns with New York City’s Special One Time Assistance Program (SOTA). It recently came to my attention that since last summer the City has been paying for the relocation and housing of homeless residents to other counties through this program. Under SOTA, travel expenses and one year of housing are being paid by the NYC Human Resources Administration (HRA) to relocate eligible families to Upstate NY. Broome County recently discovered that since August of 2017, six NYC families have been relocated here through this program; our local Department of Social Services (DSS) was never informed of these relocations. Considering NYS Social Services Law 148, it appears that this policy may be illegal. The law states that “no person shall, without legal authority, send or bring, or cause to be sent or brought, any needy person into a public welfare district with the purpose of making him a charge on such public welfare district, or for the purpose of avoiding the responsibility of assistance or care in the public welfare district from which he is brought or sent.” Regardless of its legality, SOTA is ultimately placing an increased financial burden on Broome County DSS. After being relocated to Broome County by NYC HRA, these families have applied for other public benefits, such as SNAP, medical assistance, a basic needs allowance (cash), utility payments, and daycare through Broome County DSS. Broome County would incur 71% of the cost of Safety Net benefits for eligible SOTA recipients. There are also associated personnel costs as DSS staff works directly with these new clients. When their year of NYC-supported rent expires, NYC’s SOTA recipients will likely have to apply for rental assistance through Broome County as well. It should be noted that the year of housing support they are receiving from HRA is at a higher rate than what is permissible under NYS law. When it expires, these families may need to move once again as Broome’s housing assistance will not be enough to cover rent at their current residence. Broome County has already asked New York City to put an end to this program. In the meantime, I am asking the following questions be addressed by the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA):

  • Is it OTDA’s opinion that SOTA is legal under NYS Social Services Law 148?
  • Is OTDA keeping track of programs such as SOTA that relocate families to other parts of the state?
  • If so, how many people, and more specifically children, have been moved under this program, or similar past programs that pay rent in advance to relocate NYC HRA recipients? Of these, how many have been able to maintain their housing after expiration of NYC HRA’s rental payment?
  • Do the families that have been relocated from NYC to Broome have a connection to the county, such as previous residence or family living locally?
  • What is the fiscal impact to the counties to which these families are relocating? How many SOTA families have successfully transitioned off public assistance?
  • Are funds NYC HRA uses to pay a year’s rent in advance being claimed back to OTDA?
As I work with my colleagues locally and at the state level to investigate this practice, I am asking for your assistance in getting to the bottom of the implementation of this program and its impacts on our community. Sincerely,
Donna A. Lupardo
Member of Assembly cc: Paul Francis, Deputy Secretary for Health & Human Services
Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi
Senator Fred Akshar
Broome County Executive Jason Garnar