New Guide Highlights Benefits Immigrants Are Eligible to Get

NY1 News (New York), November 19, 2008

A new guide gives local immigrants access to benefits they may not know they are eligible to get.

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum and the New York Immigration Coalition released the Guide to Public Benefits for Immigrants Wednesday.

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“It’s important now that we’re going into this terrible economic crisis that people know what benefits their eligible for,” said Gotbaum. “This is important for two reasons. One, the money comes into the city, it stimulates the economy, but much more importantly, it helps people to put food on the table it helps people do things with their lives that otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.”

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[Editor’s Note: “Guide to Public Benefits for Immigrants” can be read on-line here. Readers can obtain a hard copy from the Office of the Public Advocate at 212-669-7250.]


**For Immediate Release**

November 19, 2008

Contact: Sarah Krauss

212.669.4193; 917.541.0936

Release #: 041-2008

PA Gotbaum, NY Immigration Coalition Help Immigrants Access Food Stamps, Medicaid and More; Release First Guide to Public Benefits Based on Immigration Status

Available in Six Languages

MANHATTAN—Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum today released a comprehensive Guide to Public Benefits for Immigrants in New York City. The free guide provides valuable information on federal, state and city benefits and is the first of its kind to specifically examine immigration status as part of benefit eligibility. The guide will be available online in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Bengali and English. Printed copies will be available upon request.

More than three million immigrants live in New York City, approximately one-third of all New Yorkers. Many immigrants do not apply for benefits because they fear it will put their immigration status at risk or jeopardize their chances of becoming a permanent resident or citizen. By executive order, city agencies are not allowed to ask you about your immigration status or disclose your immigration status to anyone. Although undocumented immigrants are not eligible for most state and federal public benefits, these benefits are still available to their citizen children. For example, if you are an undocumented immigrant, you are not eligible for Food Stamps, but you can apply for Food Stamps for your citizen children.

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said, “Immigrants help build the city’s economy, bring neighborhoods to life, and make our culture the most diverse in the country. Low-income working immigrants may need government help, for themselves or their families, but many may not know how to access the benefits they need. We put together this free guide to give people general information about federal, state, and city benefits and what immigration status they need to qualify.”

Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Collation said, “We as a city need to do more to open up government services to immigrant New Yorkers, and eliminate the barriers that prevent people from getting the help they need. This new guide is a great tool that spreads the word about important programs available to New Yorkers, and presents the often-complex rules of eligibility in a clear and understandable way. It comes at a crucial time when many families could really use the help.”

David R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York (CSS) said, ”

“Access to services and information is essential for all New Yorkers.The immigrant community work hard and play by the rules, but are often viewed as a marginalized population—they deserve the same access to public benefits as every New Yorker. The Guide to Public Benefits for Immigrants is essential to helping them lead a more productive life. The CSS Center for Benefits and Services is grounded in similar principles that promote access to public benefits as a pathway out of poverty.”

According to the latest data available from the New York City Department of City Planning, 48 percent of immigrants are not English proficient and one of five live in poverty, earning less than $21,200 for a family of four. For specific immigrant groups, the statistics are even more startling:

* Immigrants from Mexico: 76 percent are not English proficient and 32 percent live in poverty

* Immigrants from the Dominican Republic: 70 percent are not English proficient and 31 percent live in poverty

* Immigrants from Bangladesh (Bengali speakers): 59 percent are not English proficient and 31 percent live in poverty

Latinos in New York City face particular financial hardships. According to the latest Community Service Society “The Unheard Third” survey, approximately 2 in 3 low-income Latino working families with children stated that it was “a lot harder” to make ends meet for themselves and their family over the last 5 years. Many of these low-income immigrants are eligible for public benefits, including Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), Medicaid and food stamps.

Overall, immigrant families face greater barriers to enrollment in public benefit programs than citizens because they are often unaware of the benefits for which they may be eligible and because of misinformation. Not only do they face language barriers, but they also fear that applying for benefits will jeopardize their immigration status. In 2006, according to the New York City Human Resources Administration, 83,000 non-citizens were eligible but not enrolled in food stamps.

The Guide to Public Benefits for Immigrants is written at an 8th grade reading level to make it accessible to as many people as possible. The information is presented in a user-friendly format and it also includes an FAQ section on applying for benefits.

For each benefit, the guide provides information on:

* Who qualifies based on immigration status

* Income limits and other requirements for qualification

* Contact information, including phone number and web address, and information on how to locate the nearest office for the agency that administers the benefit

* Information on how to get an application in various languages

For copies of this guide, contact the Office of the Public Advocate at 212-669-7250. The guide can also be downloaded and printed in 6 languages at www.pubadvocate.nyc.gov.

For help applying for a benefit, call the Office of the Public Advocate at the number above. For help with immigration related legal matters, please contact the NYS Immigration Hotline (212) 419-3737 or 800-566-7636. The hotline can answer questions about immigration and naturalization in 17 languages and refer callers to an organization that can help.

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