Press Release

CSS applauds legislative reforms to HRA’s `Back to Work’ Program

David R. Jones

Last year, the Community Service Society and the Resilience Advocacy Project released a report on what happens when economically-disadvantaged youth in New York City apply for public assistance. We found that the city’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) often misled youth into wrongly believing they were ineligible to receive these benefits.  When young people were able to access public assistance, an overwhelming majority were directed into HRA’s “Back to Work” program – a job readiness and search program geared to adults - to fulfill state and federal work requirements, regardless of their age, educational level, or work experience.

Few would argue against a policy that requires individuals to participate in a job-assistance and training program as a condition of receiving cash assistance. However, if you never held a job or lack basic skills, the emphasis should be on obtaining your GED and youth-oriented workforce development programs, as is specified in State law and encouraged by the federal government. 

Today, Mayor Bloomberg will sign into law three bills that will collectively improve the chances that young people seeking public assistance will be able to access it, and this time of crisis in their lives will be used by the City to connect them to education programs and other meaningful services that can help them escape poverty, fulfill their goals in life, and become contributing members of society. All three bills draw on findings and recommendations from our report, “Missed Opportunity: How New York City Can Do a Better Job of Reconnecting Youth on Public Assistance to Education and Jobs.”

We congratulate City Council members Gale Brewer, Lewis Fidler and Annabel Palma for sponsoring the bills and supporting reforms to a program that has tremendous potential to engage disconnected youth and promote opportunities for self-sufficiency. 

Contact: Jeffrey N. Maclin
(212) 614-5538 (office)
(718) 309-2346 (cell)
jmaclin@cssny.org