Every so often, our Dear Penny column investigates the answers to reader questions about saving money in Brooklyn. This week’s entry is written by Brokelyn associate editor Jonathan Berk.
The official line: Eligibility is based mainly on income, household size, and in some cases, assets. There’s a six-page application and an interview (see below for all of that). Unofficially, go ahead and fill out the application, and bring in what they ask for, but don’t sweat your chances assuming you’re in the right ballpark of financial need. Assets, or resources, don’t matter as much toward eligibility as they used to. Even if your financial woes are pretty recent (you made a decent living last year or you just went off unemployment), you might still qualify for the benefit.
The web site of the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance is the place to go to find out the exact numbers and all the detailed information you’ll need. There are some handy income-based charts to help you figure out if you qualify. Here are some sample numbers, but note that based on these, you only “may” qualify for the benefits. To actually apply, there’s the application and an interview.
For a single person, not elderly or disabled, monthly gross income must be no greater than $1,127 and annual income must be under $13,524. Then the limits increase with each additional person, so a family of four would have to be taking in less than $2,297 monthly or $27,564 annually. Allowable income is higher for families with elderly or disabled members, and even higher still for families with dependent care expenses (kids must out-rank cripples or old people). The monthly limit for a family of four with dependents is $3,533, and the annual limit is $42,396.
On the other hand… here’s that unofficial part we mentioned. Here’s what happened when a good friend of Brokelyn went to sign up:
“They asked for my checking account number but I said I didn’t know it. I just didn’t really want anyone poking around in my checking account. They said ‘fine.’ They said, ‘How are you going to pay next month’s rent?’ I said, ‘Exactly.’ That was about it.”
She did tell them amounts for her checking account, retirement fund, rent and income, but the 1099s she was supposed to bring? They weren’t even looked at. She got $200 for monthly food stamps, up for review in six months.
If you want to apply, you’ll have to make the trip to one of these Brooklyn Food Stamp Centers. Applying by mail also is possible, as are telephone interviews under certain circumstances. And here’s a little fact of note: Food stamps are now accepted at a number of farmers’ markets.
While we’re on the subject of social welfare here, there are a couple of other useful benefits we thought we’d help direct you to: Medicaid and extended unemployment assistance.
Medicaid, put simply, is a program for those who can’t afford other medical care. Learn all you need at this site, of the New York State Department of Health. Take note: Medicaid’s eligibility requirements include income, resources, age, disability level and more. It’s not for everyone, even if you’re on the low end of the income spectrum.
Gaining extended unemployment assistance is a simpler process. Currently, there are 53 weeks of extended unemployment available after the initial 26 weeks of benefits. Eligibility, filing details and other important info is here, through the New York State Department of Labor.