Eric Adams

Report: New Yorkers are waiting longer for cash assistance

The mayor’s preliminary progress update for the year showed dismal wait times for cash assistance and continued sluggishness for food assistance.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ administration released its latest progress report of fiscal year 2024.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ administration released its latest progress report of fiscal year 2024. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

New York City is still struggling to promptly process New Yorkers’ applications for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Cash Assistance benefits – a pervasive, ongoing problem that’s left thousands of New Yorkers struggling to pay for food and other purchases. While SNAP application timeliness remained steady – albeit lower than previous fiscal years – cash assistance timeliness rates declined nearly 41 percentage points in the first four months of the fiscal year compared to the same period in fiscal year 2023, according to the Preliminary Mayor’s Management report.

Evaluating how New York City agencies are performing is complicated, but the preliminary report does provide important early insight into over 2,000 different performance indicators ranging from fire alarm inspections, city jail admissions, staffing levels, affordable housing construction, crime and school attendance. New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ office releases the full version of the report each fall. The latest 400+ page report dropped Tuesday afternoon.

The city’s Human Resources Administration’s timely processing of cash assistance – a critical indicator of the agency’s performance – plummeted to 14.3% between July and October. During the same four months in the previous fiscal year, that number had been 55% – higher even than the 28% recorded during fiscal year 2023. (The data is complicated by the fact that the criteria for timely processing of some cash assistance applications was cut from 45 days to 30 days partway through fiscal year 2023). The timely processing of SNAP benefits, more commonly known as food stamps, stayed fairly level between July and October at 41.6%, although that figure is still less than the 60.1% recorded in 2022.

Similar to the last Mayor’s Management report, the preliminary version released Tuesday attributed the poor processing times to the expiration of state waivers that suspended recertifications and an “unprecedented” ongoing increase in applications. Applications for cash assistance increased 22% in the first four months of fiscal year 2024 compared to the same period in the year prior. And application denials have doubled in the year ending Oct. 1, City Limits reported this week. SNAP caseloads also remain historically high, largely due to the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the report.

“HRA has taken aggressive action to fill critical vacancies, invest in technology and implement process improvements to improve timeliness,” the report says.    

There’s at least a few bright spots outlined in the report that Adams is eager to tout. The average wait time for fire alarm inspections carried out by the New York City Fire Department fell from 41 days to 24 between July and October last year compared to the same period in the previous fiscal year. Overall, major crime also fell nearly 3%, dropping from 45,738 incidents to 44,447, according to the New York Post. Child care voucher enrollment also increased more than 25%, growing from 52,360 to 65,572, Politico New York reported.