The New York Legal Assistance Group is pleased to announce that we have reached a settlement agreement that will result in New York expanding eligibility for subsistence public assistance, called Safety Net Assistance (SNA) benefits, to special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) beneficiaries—unmarried immigrants under 21 years old who have been abandoned, abused, or neglected by one or both of their parents.
The ability to access SNA will be critically important for these immigrants. SNA is a state-funded benefit that provides both cash and non-cash assistance to New Yorkers experiencing poverty who are not eligible for federally funded public assistance for numerous reasons, including immigration status. New York State has extended SNA to several categories of immigrants, including immigrants who are found to be “permanently residing in the United States under the color of law” (“PRUCOL”)—but until NYLAG’s advocacy, not to SIJ beneficiaries.
In response to NYLAG’s advocacy on behalf of these immigrants, OTDA and HRA have agreed to change their policy and consider SIJ beneficiaries PRUCOL for SNA eligibility purposes, as of August 18, 2021. The GIS contains additional details.
Beginning August 18, 2021, SIJ beneficiaries in possession of appropriate documentation—specifically, an I-797 Notice of Action demonstrating an approved I-360 petition—and who otherwise meet the eligibility requirements will be eligible to receive Safety Net Assistance. Following this policy change, if you or someone you know was incorrectly denied benefits despite being a SIJ beneficiary, please contact Brendan Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or Julia Russell at email@example.com.
We applaud OTDA and HRA’s decision to expand access to benefits that provide much needed support to NYLAG’s clients as they build lives and pursue their dreams in the United States. This policy change is especially vital given the growing SIJ visa backlog at the federal level and associated delays for our clients in obtaining employment authorization and lawful permanent residency.