Benefits

The Department of Social Services offers temporary help for needy men, women and children. If you are unable to work, can't find a job or your job does not pay enough to meet your basic living expenses you may be eligible to receive help. Erie County has a Work First policy that focuses on the temporary nature of cash assistance and an individual's responsibility to achieve self-sufficiency.

There are two major Temporary Assistance programs:

Family Assistance (FA)

Family Assistance (FA) provides cash assistance to eligible needy families that include a minor child living with one or both parents or caretaker relatives. FA operates under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) guidelines.

Adults eligible under FA are limited to receiving benefits for a total of 60 months in their lifetime, including all assistance received in other states. Once this 60 month limit is reached, that adult and all members of his or her FA household are ineligible to receive any more FA benefits. The months need not be consecutive. Rather, each individual month in which TANF-funded benefits are received is included in the lifetime count.

Adults receiving FA who are determined to be able to work must comply with federal work requirements to receive benefits. As well, a condition of FA eligibility is that each applicant is required to cooperate with the Department of Social Services in efforts to locate any absent parent and obtain child support payments and other payments or property. Non-cooperation without good cause could results in lower FA benefits.

Safety Net Assistance (SNA)

Safety Net Assistance (SNA) provides cash assistance to eligible needy individuals and families who are not eligible for Family Assistance. SNA is for:

  • Single adults
  • Childless couples
  • Children living apart from adult relatives
  • Families of persons found to be abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Families of persons refusing drug/alcohol screening, assessment, or treatment
  • Aliens who are eligible for temporary assistance but who are not eligible for federal reimbursement.

Recipients of SNA who are determined to be able to work must comply with federal work requirements to receive benefits.

Generally, you can receive cash SNA for a maximum of two years in a lifetime. After that, if you are eligible for SNA, it is provided in non-cash form, such as a payment made directly to your landlord or voucher sent directly to your utility company. In addition, non-cash SNA is provided for:

  • Families of persons found to be abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Families of persons refusing drug/alcohol screening, assessment, or treatment
  • Families with an adult who has exceeded the 60 month lifetime time limit.

Work Requirement

For most applicants, the first portal of entry is the Erie County Works Center located at 158 Pearl Street, Buffalo NY. The ECWC is a collaborative effort between Temporary Assistance and the Comprehensive Employment Division. Each applicant is screened and evaluated for barriers to employment. Employment Counselors will work with each individual to determine the most appropriate service; some individuals will be referred for medical evaluations, and some for substance abuse evaluations. Most applicants will be enrolled in a job club, a job search, and other work-related activities. Participation in these activities is a requirement for eligibility for cash assistance. Many applicants find work before their case ever opens, thereby eliminating their need for assistance altogether.

Emergency Services

An emergency is an urgent need or situation that has to be taken care of right away. Some examples of an emergency are:

  • Homelessness
  • Lack of food
  • Eviction
  • Lack of fuel for heating in the cold weather period
  • Utility Shut-off