Changes Due To COVID-19

Modified: July 13, 2020 8:52am

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 downloaded here. Translated applications are available here. Applications can also be made electronically for SNAP and HEAP at mybenefits.ny.gov.

 

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

Family Independence

The in-person interview requirement for certifications and recertifications is waived for Temporary Assistance through August 5, 2020.

Employment requirements related to TA and SNAP cases will be waived until otherwise notified by OTDA 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 through June 2020 are extended for six months. 

OTDA has issued a supplemental SNAP benefit to those families receiving less than the maximum monthly benefit for their household size in March, April and May 2020. The increased benefit will be automatically applied to benefit cards. No action is required to receive the supplemental benefit. Maximum benefit amounts by household size can be found here

OTDA has announced a Pandemic-EBT benefit for households with children who would have received free or reduced-price school meals under the National School Lunch Act, if not for a school closure. If your family receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and/or Temporary Assistance (TA) benefits and you have school-age children (ages 5-18), you will automatically receive P-EBT food benefits for each eligible school-age child in your household. The benefits will automatically be issued to your family’s current EBT card. If you have children who receive free or reduced-price school lunch but your family does not receive SNAP or TA benefits, you still will automatically get P-EBT food benefits for each school-age child in your household. More information about how children who do not live in households that get SNAP or TA benefits will be mailed to you. Begin checking your mail for this P-EBT notice beginning in late July.

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-July 31, 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 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: https://forms.gle/FSgMcpfbTZmDrhRF8

Refugee Cash Assistance:

  • Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) eligibility period extended from eight months to up to eighteen months for recipients who:
  • are about to terminate from the program or who have successfully exited the program and then subsequently either lost employment or sustained a reduction in hours that would requalify them, and
  • became eligible for RCA after April 1, 2019, however the additional months must not extend beyond September 30, 2020.
For RCA recipients who became eligible for RCA on or after February 1, 2020, the eligibility period will remain at eight months. Refugee Cash Assistance applicants/recipients who are eligible for RCA only and not able to appear at a district office due to COVID-19 as described below through September 30, 2020
  • not able to provide immigration documents due to COVID-19, applicant’s immigration status can be confirmed virtually through a database or other electronic means without first having to check documentation to confirm the applicant’s status. 
  • Further, eligibility interviews may be conducted over the phone.  Eligibility workers may accept a written declaration, under penalty of perjury, from the applicant attesting to satisfactory immigration status, and containing name, date of birth, alien registration number, immigration status, date of entry, most recent address, an acknowledgement that the individual has been impacted by COVID-19, signature, and date of signature.
  • if web-based employment services are not available participation in employability services is waived
 

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.

All employees entering the Detention Center are subject to temperature checks, and employees must wear masks while at work.