The Governor's budget proposes an expansion of punitive welfare work sanctions to "full family" sanctions . This would cut off an entire family's benefits -- including minor children -- for an "infraction" by the parent. Sanctions can result from minor occurrences, like being late to a workfare assignment because your child is sick, or missing a welfare work-related appointment because the appointment notice was mailed to the wrong address.
Twenty-two percent of households receiving welfare in New York City are in the “sanction” process at any given time, and more than 8 out of 10 who pursue a State welfare hearing get the sanction reversed or withdrawn. In the meantime, while the process is pending (which can take multiple months), sanctioned parents and their children suffer by receiving reduced benefits, reduced food stamps, and losing their housing and child care supplements. They risk evictions, utility shut-offs, and other hardships as a result.
Currently, only a portion of the family’s cash assistance and food stamps are reduced due to a parent’s “infraction.” The household loses the parent’s proportional share of these benefits for a specified period of time and until the parent complies with work rules. Under the Governor’s proposal, the children will lose their share of the benefits as well.
It is essential that this proposal be stopped -- passing it will inevitably hurt vulnerable children, cost the State money, and exacerbate the repercussions of wrongfully implemented sanctions. Sign our petition and help us to reach out to NY State Assembly members!
Full family sanctions leave families without any money for necessities and threaten children’s health, well-being and basic family stability. Studies have found that children in sanctioned families are two to five times more likely to suffer serious educational and health-related problems, including: stunted growth, exposure to lead poisoning, low birth weight, repeat of a grade, iron deficiency, expulsion from school, and serious disabilities.
Despite its presentation as a cost saving objective, full family sanctions will more likely increase costs to the State as they must address the repercussions of full family sanctions. For example, such sanctions increase homelessness and unemployment. When families lose income and eligibility for critical subsidies - like housing and child care – it is harder for them to keep their housing and participate in the job market. Over time, full family sanctions increase the likelihood of children being placed in foster care, a program that costs 30% to 150% higher than the average TANF benefits cut by sanctions.
Moreover, welfare hearings challenging sanctions are highly expensive and the majority of cases are won by welfare recipients. In 2009, New York State spent approximately $17 million on these types of welfare hearings and welfare recipients won 85% of the time. Many of the most vulnerable recipients – people who are disabled or have disabled children, people who cannot read, people who do not speak or read English – do not manage to request State welfare hearings or do not understand the notices well enough to receive continued benefits until the hearing is decided. Meanwhile, they face eviction, utility termination, and hunger.
The fallout from this proposal is clear. Full family sanctions will hurt New York’s low-income children directly. Additionally, they will cost money and amplify punishments for minor or mistaken infractions. Please act now to oppose this detrimental proposal and protect low-income families and their children.