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What are entitlements?
Entitlements are programs that you are “entitled to” if you qualify. That generally means you get them automatically after you apply. (Important: See below for exceptions.) For example, if you go to your IL workshop, you are entitled to an IL stipend. Or, if your income is below a certain level, you are automatically entitled to food stamps. (And, at age 65, everyone gets the best entitlement of all: Social Security, which is money to live on in retirement.)
There are six important things to know about entitlements:
1) Which ones you are eligible for. Based on your circumstances, you may be eligible for housing, food stamps, formula for a new baby, etc. To find out exactly what you qualify for, talk with your lawyer or law guardian. They should know, or they can send you to a specialist who can tell you.
2) Entitlements are not handouts. The government and the big corporations know that if people do not get housing, enough food, or other kinds of basic provisions, they may be too stressed to be good citizens and employees. Entitlement programs are designed to help you stay healthy and productive because that helps you and it helps the whole society.
3) The government doesn’t come looking for you with these entitlements. You usually have to apply for them! It can be confusing. New York City is trying to make it easier by having one application for most entitlements. Even when they get a system in place, you’ll still have to be assertive and take responsibility tolearn what you’re eligible for, fill out the forms, go to the meetings, and do everything else that’s required.
4) Warning: Some entitlements are limited. The government does not always provide enough for everyone who qualifies. Make sure to ask if the program you're applying to can run out.
5) Warning: For some people, entitlements become a crutch. If you need help—with housing, or food for your newborn, or anything else--and there is a program to help you, make sure you get it. But in the long run you’ll have more freedom (and more money) if you can get a decent job. Everyone knows this, but for some people that government check is a little too comfortable. After a while it reduces their drive to do better. Youth in care, who have been in a government-run system for many years, have to be especially careful about thinking that they can kick back and everything will be provided for them. It won’t be! After you turn 18 or 21, lots of benefits disappear. And many of the entitlements you can get as an adult have time limits. Use entitlements as a tool for your future success, not as a crutch to prop yourself up.
6) Some entitlements come with responsibilities. For example, you must meet workfare requirements (such as attending job training) to receive public assistance and you must attend an independent living workshop to get the IL stipend.
To get a food stamp application, call the toll free New York State Temporary Assistance Hotline at 1-800-342-3009. Follow the prompts on the automated caller response system to find the address and phone number of the food stamp office for where you live. You can get more info and a link to the application portal at:
Medicaid is one of five New York City programs to help people who cannot afford medical care. To apply for Medicaid in New York City, contact the Human Resources Administration at 1-718-557-1399.
For more information on Medicaid and other health insurance programs, see: www.nyc.gov/html/hra/html/services/insurance.shtml.
For details on how to keep your Medicaid coverage when you age out of care, click here.
The Home Energy Assistance Program provides help for people who are having trouble paying their electric, gas, and or heating bills during the winter months. The grants are $40 to $440 per year. There are HEAP offices in every borough. The applicant must meet the eligibility requirements. For example, the person applying must be the person named on the lease and must be paying the bill directly to the utility company. People on public assistance receive this grant automatically in their budget, where applicable.
For more information call 800-692-0557 or go to: www.nyc.gov/html/hra/html/services/energy.shtml
General Help Getting Entitlements
The following organizations can help you get the benefits you are entitled to.
This free website is an easy way to find out what benefits you’re eligible for and how to apply. Fill in your information and it will screen you for over 30 federal, state, and city benefits programs. You can also find out where to go if you need to speak with someone in person.
Chinese American Planning Council
Food Bank's Community Kitchen
Food and Hunger Hotline: 1-866-888-8777
Lawyers for Children
Legal Aid Society
Partnership for Children's Rights
Legal Services NYC
Medicaid Managed Care Helpline
New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)
R.E.A.P. (Resource Entitlement and Advocacy Program)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) (Social Security)
Urban Justice Center
WIC (Women, Infants & Children)
Information on Child Care Entitlements
Administration for Children’s Services (ACS)
Center for Children's Initiatives
South Brooklyn Legal Services
Coalition for Asian American Children and Families
Committee for Hispanic Children and Families
110 William St., Suite 1802
Community Service Society's Benefits Plus Learning Center