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The New York City Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services (HRA/DSS) is a Mayoral Agency of the New York City government in charge of the majority of the city’s social services programs. HRA helps New Yorkers in need through a variety of services that promote employment and personal responsibility while providing temporary assistance and work supports. The current Acting Commissioner of HRA is Kathleen Carlson, who was appointed to the position on December 31, 2013 by Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Lilliam Barrios-Paoli. HRA is the largest city social services agency in the United States. It has a budget of $9.4 billion in 2012 with a planned budget of $9.3 billion in 2013, employs 15,000 people, and serves over 3 million New Yorkers.
HRA’s Family Independence Administration (FIA) provides temporary cash assistance under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program and the New York State Safety Net program. Eligibility is based on factors such as income and family size. Participation in an employment program is required for anyone receiving temporary cash assistance.
The Family Independence Administration also provides access to food stamps to low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled. Food stamps are considered a work support, giving working families an increased ability to purchase food. Unemployed food stamp recipients who are able to work must participate in an employment program.
HRA’s Employment Services, a part of the Family Independence Administration, connects HRA clients with employment and training opportunities in the private and public sector. Many employment services programs combine subsidized work and on-the-job training with guided job hunting and workshops on resume writing and interviewing skills.
HRA’s Medical Assistance Program (MAP), part of the Medical Insurance and Community Services Administration (MICSA), provides free or low cost health insurance to New Yorkers who qualify. Programs include Medicaid, Child Health Plus, the Family Planning Benefit Program and more.
The Long Term Care Services Program offers a wide variety of in-home, community based or institutional assistance programs for the elderly and persons with disabilities who need medical care and help with daily tasks.
The Home Care Services Program (HCSP) provides Medicaid-funded care programs to seniors or disabled individuals that allow them to remain safely in their homes, instead of a nursing home or other institution. Clients must be eligible for Medicaid to receive these services.
The HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) helps New Yorkers living with AIDS or HIV gain access to benefits and support. HASA clients may receive help with medical care, housing assistance, direct links to other HRA services such as food stamps, employment services, and counseling. HASA was first created as a unit serving clients with HIV/AIDS in 1985, then expanded into the Division of Aids Services and Income Support in 1995. In 2000 it became the HIV/AIDS Services Administration.
The Office of Domestic Violence (ODV) provides support and temporary shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children. ODV can provide counseling and advocacy on a client’s behalf, and help them obtain other HRA benefits they are eligible for.
Adult Protective Services (APS) provides case management and services for mentally or physically impaired adults who are at risk of harm. APS assists adults suffering from abuse, neglect, financial exploitation or hazardous living conditions and provides them with service plans that help them live safely within their homes and communities.
The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) ensures that noncustodial parents pay child support orders established in family court. They assist custodial parents in getting a child support order in place, and refer unemployed noncustodial parents to employment services. OCSE also refers parents to mediation services to resolve disputes and participates in several outreach programs to promote responsible fatherhood
The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) provides assistance with heating bills and equipment repairs to low-income renters and homeowners.
The Office of Citywide Health Insurance Access (OCHIA) connects uninsured New Yorkers with low cost private insurance options or with public health insurance if they are eligible. OCHIA also works to connect small businesses with affordable private insurance for their employees. OCHIA operates NYC Health Insurance Link, a website which helps individuals and businesses search for affordable health insurance policies.
Social services in some form have existed in New York City since shortly after the first settlers came to what was then the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam in the 1600s. Early programs were usually run by churches and private charities. As an English colony, New York’s social services were based on the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1598-1601, in which the poor who could not work were cared for in a Poorhouse. Those who could were employed in a Workhouse. The first Poorhouse in New York was created in the 1740s, and was a combined Poorhouse, Workhouse, and House of Corrections.
As poverty increased in the 1800s, more private charities and public initiatives were created to deal with the issue. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many social work-based private charities merged with government agencies, and New York became a leader in developing social work-oriented public service organizations. The Great Depression was a catalyst for social service organizations to go further in addressing the needs of the poor and unemployed across the nation, and the New Deal led to an expansion in the type and amount of aid provided to low income families, and increased cooperation between public and private social service providers.
The Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services was created on August 15, 1966, by consolidating many of the city’s existing social service administrations under Mayor John Lindsay’s Executive Order No. 28. The city agencies combined to form HRA included HRA Central Operations and the Department of Welfare, the Manpower and Career Development Agency, the Community Development Agency, Youth Services Agency and Addiction Services Agency. The Administration initially had two chief officers, the Administrator of the Human Resources Administration and the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services. In 1970, these positions were combined into the office of Commissioner. HRA was initially created as a ‘super-agency,’ housing all of the city’s social service programs. In 1993, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) became a separate city agency, and in 1996 the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) was also separated from HRA.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), more commonly known as welfare reform. This required social services agencies around the country to shift to a work-first philosophy that emphasized job training and employment services combined with temporary aid and work supports. The Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program was replaced nationwide with Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). In 1998, the first phase of welfare reform was implemented in New York City under HRA Commissioner Jason Turner. The Agency’s Income Support Centers were converted to Job Centers. Since the implementation of reforms in New York City, the Cash Assistance Caseload has declined to its lowest level since 1964, while enrollment in work support programs like Food Stamps has increased.