Although domestic violence occurs in all socioeconomic groups, there are often close connections between poverty and domestic violence. Leaving an abusive relationship and the financial support of the partner may thrust victims of domestic violence into temporary financial hardship. Abusers may intentionally sabotage the victims’ efforts to establish financial independence through education or employment opportunities.
The Welfare-to-Work Program provides job opportunities and training to low-income New Yorkers receiving public assistance through Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) or Safety Net (SN). In collaboration with a network of service providers, the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) assesses the skills of its clients and assigns them to activities that will move them towards self-sufficiency.
HRA also provides a core of services designed to move clients with special needs towards a sense of greater self-sufficiency by providing appropriate support. This group includes victims of domestic violence who are assisted in finding safety when unable to remain in their homes and communities due to threats of further violence. Victims of domestic violence can access these services by going to an HRA Job Center and asking to see the Domestic Violence Liaison.
The Welfare-to-Work Program provides special consideration to victims of domestic violence. Work and child support requirements may increase danger for domestic violence victims until their safety needs are met. Prioritizing the safety of its clients, HRA administers the Family Violence Option for domestic violence victims in the Welfare-to-Work Program.
Implemented in New York State in 1998, the Family Violence Option protects victims of domestic violence from receiving public assistance sanctions if they are unable meet the terms of TANF due to domestic violence.
In New York City, public assistance applicants and recipients may receive a waiver through the Family Violence Option for specific work and child support mandates. The waiver will be granted when compliance with TANF requirements places the victim and/or the victim’s children at risk of harm or if TANF compliance makes it more difficult for the client to escape the abuse.
New York State requires that all public assistance applicants receive information about domestic violence as well as information about protections and services. Public assistance applicants and recipients may be voluntarily screened for domestic violence. Screening is confidential with the exception of child abuse and neglect, which must be reported to the State Central Register.
Individuals mandated to participate in the Welfare-to-Work program who identify themselves as domestic violence victims will be referred to a specially trained Domestic Violence Liaison at the HRA Job Center. Domestic Violence Liaisons assess referred clients and create a service plan based on the clients’ special circumstances. The Domestic Violence Liaison may recommend that the client apply for a Family Violence Option Waiver, register for continuing education classes and job skills training, and/or receive a work assignment or supportive counseling.
Since the inception of this program, many domestic violence survivors have regained their sense of self-worth and established a stable environment for themselves and their families.
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Victims of domestic violence receiving public assistance should go to a Job Center and ask to see the Domestic Violence Liaison. If possible, the individual should bring documentation of the abuse such as an Order of Protection, hospital records, Domestic Incident Reports, police reports, or a signed letter from a social service provider. If the victim does not have any documentation, s/he may sign a statement asserting that s/he has been abused.
The decision regarding the victim’s waiver will not be made onsite. However, other benefits such as emergency funds and a referral to counseling may be immediately available to the victim. The decision will be sent to the victim through the mail.