NYS Back-to-School Assistance Program – $200 for Needy Families

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 11, 2009

GOVERNOR PATERSON AND GEORGE SOROS ANNOUNCE BACK-TO-SCHOOL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM FOR HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF NEW YORK CHILDREN

Open Society Institute and State and Federal Governments Create $175 Million Public-Private Partnership to Help Low-Income Families Prepare for the School Year

Governor David A. Paterson today announced a historic collaboration with George Soros and the Open Society Institute (OSI) that will provide one-time, $200 grants to more than 800,000 children in low-income families across New York State to help purchase school supplies as they prepare to return to class in September. Families who receive public assistance or food stamps can access this one-time Back-To-School Supplement of $200 per school-aged child (ages 3 through 17) starting today. The Governor was joined by Mr. Soros and other elected officials at P.S. 208 in New York City today to make the announcement.

OSI committed $35 million from its Foundation to Promote Open Society to the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), which oversees programs for low-income families. That commitment triggered the availability of an additional $140 million in federal funding through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) emergency contingency fund that was established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) earlier this year.

“This first-of-its-kind partnership in New York is an example of how the public and private sectors can work together to foster a brighter future for the low-income families of our State,” Governor Paterson said. “These $200 grants will provide thousands of families with a much needed financial boost so that they can better meet the needs of their children as they prepare to go back to school. This partnership is a continuation of my commitment to aggressively identifying opportunities to use economic stimulus funds to help our neediest New Yorkers and to bolster our State’s economy.”

Mr. Soros said: “Even in the toughest of economic times, getting ready for school is important. When I was a student right after World War II, I had no money. I received cash from charities and I remember how important that was to my education. Since then, I have been very fortunate, so I am happy I’ve been given the opportunity today to help others. I hope these funds will relieve some of the financial burden on New York’s families so their children can start the school year off with a measure of optimism and hope for the future.”

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said: “Over the past year in New York City, we’ve attacked the national recession by doing more than ever to connect New Yorkers to employment, job training and the critical financial supports they need. Governor Paterson and I agree that New York’s brightest days are still ahead of us and we will continue to work hard for those in need. George Soros’ generous gift – combined with federal funding – will not only provide welcome assistance as kids head back to school but will also pump money into our local economy at a time when we need it most.”

The supplements will be placed in accounts for each eligible family that can be accessed with their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, which are normally used to access public assistance and food stamp benefits. Two-thirds of the eligible recipients of the back-to-school supplements are in food stamp-only households, and the majority of these households are low-income working families or families receiving unemployment benefits.

Families can use the money to buy their children books, pencils, pens, notebooks, calculators, backpacks, shoes, tutoring, school uniforms and other clothing and essential school items. Families should look to take advantage of discounts offered by retailers in the coming weeks before school starts. The $175 million in Back-To-School Supplements will provide an economic boost to communities throughout the State as families purchase supplies, bolstering back-to-school retail sales.

Earlier this year, New York State became eligible for $407 million in TANF contingency funds to help low-income families during unusually difficult economic times – in part due to increased enrollment in the State’s Food Stamp Program, which now stands at an all-time high. The back-to-school initiative continues the State’s effort to maximize its access to federal TANF funding and represents a nearly unprecedented public-private partnership in terms of the number of direct beneficiaries. Federal TANF emergency contingency funds are being used for the back-to-school supplements initiative, and use of these funds is limited to three categories of spending – non-recurring short-term benefits, subsidized employment, or basic assistance.

Families should also check the New York State Consumer Protection Board’s “Stretch Your Dollar” tips at http://www.consumer.state.ny.us/syde_page.htm, to get ideas on how to make the back-to-school funds buy more while spending less to help their children. Recipients’ eligibility for public assistance, food stamps, child support and medical assistance will not be affected by receiving these one-time Back-To-School Supplements.

The announcement comes just one week after Governor Paterson announced the latest advancement in New York State’s myBenefits website, so that individuals in Jefferson, Lewis and Madison Counties can apply directly for food stamps from any computer with Internet access, at any time convenient for them. An online hub, myBenefits was created to expand access to critical economic supports by creating a single Internet portal for New York State families and community partners to connect with benefits (i.e., public assistance, food stamps, Child Health Plus, Family Health Plus, etc.), services and work supports. More information can be found at www.mybenefits.gov  .

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