Changes Due To COVID-19

Modified: March 27, 2020 4:07pm

All non-emergency client appointments at the Erie County Department of Social Services are suspended. We are restricting in-person assistance in our offices to those with emergency needs such as homelessness, eviction, disconnected utilities, and immediate lack of food.

We encourage the public to submit applications for services by mail to PO Box 120, Buffalo, NY 14201-9903. Applicants should include a working telephone number with their application for interview purposes. Applications for Temporary Assistance can be downloanded here. Translated applications are available here. Applications can also be made electronically for SNAP and HEAP at


OTDA, OCFS, and ECDSS have made the following procedural changes in light of COVID-19 concerns:

Family Independence

The in-person interview requirement is waived for Temporary Assistance through April 11 for certifications and is waived through May 15 for recertifications.

The requirement that clients come in person to have a photograph taken for their benefit card is waived through April 11.

Employment requirements related to TA and SNAP cases will be waived indefinitely effective Wednesday, March 18.

Fair hearings will be conducted via telephone conference.  

The certification periods for Temporary Assistance (TA)/Medicaid (MA) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cases with certification periods expiring at the end of March, April and May 2020 will be automatically extended for three months. 

OCFS has been granted the authority to waive certain background check and training requirements so that child care programs can onboard employees without those new employees completing the comprehensive background check process and the pre-service health and safety training requirements.  This will help programs to more quickly onboard new staff.

The following waivers are in place during the period of March 19, 2020-April 30, 2020 unless otherwise noted.

  • All child care subsidy redeterminations (recertification) will be extended an additional 30 days. This will allow families additional time to submit a completed recertification application and all the required verification.
  • The 35% Family Share is waived for those families impacted by COVID-19.
  • Erie County will make payments to child care providers and program types: (Day Care Center, Group Family, Family, Legally-Exempt Group and School Age Child Care) on behalf of a child who is temporarily absent from child care due to extenuating circumstances resulting from the child being quarantined due to the effects of COVID-19 for 30 days. 
  • Erie County will authorize child care services payments for eligible Temporary Assistance families during breaks in activities effective March 18, 2020-April 30, 2020 for families who have stopped work activities or employment as a result of COVID-19.
  • Effective April 1, 2020 Erie County will increase the maximum total number of allowable absences to a total of 30 absences to all child care providers and program types on behalf of an eligible child who is temporarily absent from child care due to COVID-19.
  • Erie County Child Care Subsidy Program will expand eligibility standards to serve families with incomes up to 85% of the State Median Income (SMI).  The Workforce Development Institute’s (WDI) Child Care Facilitated Enrollment program will accept new applications in the range of 201% of FPL up to 85% of SMI. Eligible families can be emailed an application by completing the WDI online prescreen here:

Family Wellness

Use of screening questions to determine if staff will visit a home or if alternate methods are necessary.

Out of country travel be foster children is on hold, and prior approval for out of country travel is rescinded. ECDSS requests that caution for ANY TRAVEL be exercised and communicated to the case manager and supervisor. ECDSS reserves the right to refuse any travel planned even within NYS or other close by destinations if based on information available at that time it would not be prudent to do so.

Supervised and unsupervised visitation is not recommended at this time. Alternative methods of visitation and contact with children are recommended and encouraged.


Youth Services

Family visits to the Youth Detention Center are suspended indefinitely, and family calls have been increased.

All court ordered family visitation is suspended.

As with other schools in Erie County, in-person instruction at the Detention Center is cancelled.