Legal Aid Society urges city to pause collections from SNAP, Medicaid recipients amid COVID-19

NEW YORK — The Legal Aid Society has urged New York City’s Human Resources Administration to halt plans to resume collections from SNAP, Public Assistance and Medicaid recipients.

Despite assurances that all agency claims and collections would be paused during the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates learned billing individuals with existing SNAP, Public Assistance and Medicaid payment and settlement agreements would restart on Nov. 1.

This would end the moratorium the agency put in place at the start of the outbreak in March.

The non-profit legal aid provider requested collections be halted for the duration of the pandemic or at least 60 days after the Federal Public Health Emergency is lifted.

Advocates have warned resuming collections will worsen the burdens New Yorkers are facing.

The Legal Aid Society’s sent a letter to Steven Banks, HRA Commissioner calling for the halt:

New York is continuing to fight the virus and pandemic while it ravages most of the country and at the same time, the COVID-19 emergency has resulted in high levels of unemployment and financial hardship for millions of New Yorkers… The hardest hit in terms of unemployment have been immigrants and people of color,communities which, in our experience, are disproportionately affected by the enforcement actions at issue here.

Applications for and enrollment in SNAP, Cash Assistance, and Medicaid have skyrocketed. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, an invaluable lifeline for millions of New Yorkers, has expired. Despite some reopenings, many businesses remain shuttered. Jobs are scarce and economic stability is a long way off, especially as New York attempts to ‘reopen’ safely. Moreover, if billings are resumed, the many individuals who are unable to meet their payments will be forced into litigation in state courthouses, which poses grave individual and public health concerns. Lastly, while we are aware of the fiscal crisis the City faces as a result of the COVID-19 emergency, budget shortfalls must not be met on the backs of struggling New Yorkers.”

As the state continues to make strides in fighting the spread of the virus, many New Yorkers continue to be affected by the pandemic’s financial crisis.

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