Temporary Assistance (TA)

OTDA Home Programs & Services Temporary Assistance


Temporary Assistance (TA), also known as Public Assistance (PA), is temporary help for needy adults, and children. If you are unable to work, can't find a job, or your job does not pay enough, TA may be able to help you pay for your expenses.


The two primary Temporary Assistance programs are Family Assistance and Safety Net Assistance. These programs provide the same level of assistance to a household but serve different populations and have some different rules.

Family Assistance (FA)

Family Assistance (FA) provides cash assistance to eligible needy families that include a minor child living with a parent/parents or a caretaker relative. FA operates under federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) guidelines.

Under FA, eligible adults are limited to receiving benefits for a total of 60 months in their lifetime, including months of TANF-funded assistance granted in other states. Once this limit is reached, that adult and all members of their FA household are ineligible to receive any more FA benefits. The months need not be consecutive, but rather each individual month in which TANF-funded benefits are received is included in the lifetime count.

Parents and other adult relatives receiving FA who are determined to be able to work must comply with federal work requirements to receive FA benefits.

As a further condition of FA eligibility each person who applies for or is receiving FA is required to cooperate with State and local departments of social services in efforts to locate any absent parent and obtain support payments and other payments or property. Non-cooperation without good cause could result in lower FA benefits.

Safety Net Assistance (SNA)

Safety Net Assistance (SNA) provides cash assistance to eligible needy individuals and families who are not eligible for FA. SNA is for:

  • Single adults
  • Childless couples
  • Children living apart from any adult relative
  • Families of persons found to be abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Families of persons refusing drug/alcohol screening, assessment or treatment
  • Non-citizens who are eligible for TA, but who are not eligible for federal reimbursement

Recipients of SNA who are determined to be able to work must also comply with work requirements to receive SNA benefits.

Generally, you can receive cash SNA for a maximum of two years in a lifetime. After that, if you are eligible for SNA, it is provided in non-cash form, such as a payment made directly to your landlord or voucher sent directly to your utility company. In addition, non-cash SNA is provided for:

  • Families of persons found to be abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Families of persons refusing drug/alcohol screening, assessment, or treatment
  • Families with an adult who has exceeded the 60-month lifetime time limit

Emergency Benefits

Emergency Assistance is a category of Temporary Assistance that helps resolve an urgent need or situation. Some examples include:

  • You are homeless
  • You have little or no food
  • Your landlord has told you that you must move or has given you eviction papers
  • You do not have fuel for heating in the cold weather period
  • Your utilities are shut-off or are about to be shut-off, or you have a 72-hour disconnect notice
  • You or someone in your family has been physically harmed, or threatened with violence by a partner, ex-partner or other household member

If you and/or your family are experiencing an emergency situation, you may be eligible for emergency assistance. Some examples of emergency assistance programs include, but are not limited to:

  • Payment of shelter arrears
  • Payment of utility arrears
  • Payment of fuel and/or cost of fuel delivery
  • Payment of Domestic Violence Shelter costs
  • Payment of Temporary Housing (Hotel/Motel) costs

Emergency Assistance to Adults (EAA) — provides assistance for individuals and couples who have been determined eligible or are receiving SSI (Supplemental Security Income) or SSI State Supplementation Program (SSP) payments.

Emergency Assistance to Families (EAF) — provides assistance to meet the emergency needs of pregnant persons and families with at least one child under age 18, or under age 19 and regularly attending full time secondary school.

Emergency Safety Net Assistance (ESNA) — provides emergency assistance to single adults and childless couples.

Note: Non-citizens who do not have documents that permit them to reside legally in the United States are eligible only for certain kinds of emergency benefits.

You DO NOT have to be eligible for ongoing Temporary Assistance to receive Emergency Assistance.

Note: If you have emergency needs you should contact your local department of social services as soon as possible, so you can be interviewed and informed in writing about the decision on your emergency the same day you apply.


Each individual and household's circumstances are different, and several factors may impact a household's eligibility for benefits, including household size, housing situation, income level, type of income, resources and other benefits received. In addition, there are certain eligibility requirements for applicants and recipients of Temporary Assistance, such as drug and alcohol screening and assessment, cooperation with child support enforcement activities, and cooperation with employment activities (e.g., job search).

Note: For most sources of income, Temporary Assistance workers must calculate your ongoing benefits using “gross” levels of income, rather than what you may actually take home after mandatory or voluntary deductions or adjustments.

Below are links for three informational books that contain information on New York State (NYS) assistance programs.


For more information about Temporary Assistance, contact your local department of social services or call the toll-free OTDA Hotline: 1-800-342-3009.

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