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Public Benefits & Shelter Access During COVID-19—FAQs Answered

As the nation continues to endure the fallout of COVID-19, millions of individuals and families need public assistance and homeless shelter access now more than ever.

On June 4th, 2020, NYLAG held a live Q&A that discussed public assistance, pandemic EBT, SNAP (food stamps), shelter access, and more for New Yorkers. You can view the pre-recorded video below, as well as some FAQs.

Below are some of the FAQs Answered:


All in-person appointments are canceled and there will be no negative case actions taken for missed appointments.

Recertification periods for Cash Assistance and SNAP ending in March-June were extended for 6 months. There should be no Cash Assistance or SNAP case closings for failure to recertify.

Most Job and SNAP centers are closed. Please check this website before visiting your job center. You may visit any of the open centers for in-person assistance.

Clients can apply for Cash Assistance, SNAP, and other Emergency Assistance, including rent arrears grants on ACCESSHRA. Applicants can upload documents using the ACCESSHRA mobile app. Clients can also use ACCESSHRA to make changes to their active cases.

If you are unable to apply for benefits online, you should call HRA’s INFOLINE at (718) 557-1399, and request that someone help you complete your application over the phone.

Clients can request a replacement Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card from the State online at here or call EBT Customer Service at (888) 328-6399 for account information or to request that a replacement EBT card for SNAP or Cash Assistance be mailed. New applicants who have been approved for emergency or expedited benefits may visit any open center to obtain a Vault Card (temporary benefit card), or they may wait for the EBT card in the mail.

Shelter Access

The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) has isolation spaces set up for people experiencing homelessness who have COVID-19 or COVID-19-like illnesses. Whether you are already in a shelter or in need of shelter, you can be accommodated.

 Every person who applies for family shelter (including adult families and families with minor children) will be given a temporary placement.

Families that are deemed ineligible for shelter will be allowed to reapply over the phone while they stay in their temporary placement. If you are given notice of ineligibility, do not leave the shelter, ask shelter staff about re-applying over the phone.

For families with minor children, children need not appear at intake in-person. 

Elderly and immunocompromised shelter residents are being proactively moved out of congregate settings into double occupancy hotel rooms.

Clients who need isolation who use methadone will have their methadone delivered to them. 

If your shelter placement does not meet your mental and physical health needs, we can help you request a reasonable accommodation.

For information on public benefits and the latest resources for COVID-19, click here

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