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March 6, 2008
Contact: Gia Storms
212.669.4813; 917.626.6757
Release #: 006 -2009

PA Gotbaum Promotes Russian Guide to Public Benefits; Encourages Immigrants to Access Foods Stamps and Bring Millions into NYC Economy

BROOKLYN – Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum today traveled to Brighton Beach to promote a comprehensive Guide to Public Benefits for Immigrants in New York City in Russian. The free guide provides valuable information on federal, state and city benefits and is the first of its kind to specifically examine immigration status as part of benefit eligibility. The Public Advocate first released the guide in November 2008 in six languages, including English, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Korean and Bengali.

More than three million immigrants live in New York City, approximately one-third of all New Yorkers. In 2006, according to the New York City Human Resources Administration, 83,000 non-citizens were eligible but not enrolled in food stamps. The average food stamp benefit for a single person household as of January, 2009, is $133 a month, therefore New York City is losing approximately $132.5 million a year in federal funding by not connecting these New Yorkers with food stamps.

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said, “Immigrants bring our neighborhoods to life and make our culture the most diverse in the country – as well as help bring needed funds into our local economy. Low-income working immigrants may need government help, for themselves or their families, but many do not know how to access the benefits they need. We’re here today to promote a very important resource for the Russian community and let local immigrants know that this guide offers crucial information about federal, state, and city benefits.”

William Rapfogel, Executive Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, said, “This guide is a valuable and much-needed resource for the immigrant community living in New York, and I applaud the Public Advocate for addressing this important need. Immigrants in America so often are looking for safety and security, and by informing them of their benefits in a way that is culturally sensitive, we are strengthening our services and our city.”

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz said, “It is most important that immigrants in New York City, which has a rich history of welcoming immigrants, be aware of the government programs available to help them. The resource guide that Public Advocate Gotbaum and the New York Immigration Coalition are providing in six languages, including Russian, will go a long way to making sure our new neighbors can take advantage of services that will ease and quicken their transition to life in America.”

Susan Fox, Executive Director of the Shorefront YM-YWHA of Brighton-Manhattan Beach, said, “It is our responsibility to make integration into American society as smooth and understandable for our community as possible. At the Shorefront Y, we have been working with immigrants for over 50 years and see this as a great step to streamlining the integration process. The Guide to Public Benefits will help people navigate the confusion of paperwork and government requirements that can be a barrier to their integration into American life.”

Many immigrants do not apply for benefits because they fear it will put their immigration status at risk or jeopardize their chances of becoming a permanent resident or citizen. According to the NYC Dept of City Planning Report, The Newest New Yorkers, there are more than 81,400 Russian born immigrants living in New York City, and nearly two-thirds of them live in Brooklyn.

According to the latest data available from the New York City Department of City Planning, 48 percent of immigrants are not English proficient and one of five live in poverty, earning less than $21,200 for a family of four.

Overall, immigrant families face greater barriers to enrollment in public benefit programs than citizens because they are often unaware of the benefits for which they may be eligible and because of misinformation. Not only do they face language barriers, but they also fear that applying for benefits will jeopardize their immigration status.

The Guide to Public Benefits for Immigrants is written at an 8th grade reading level to make it accessible to as many people as possible. The information is presented in a user-friendly format and it also includes an FAQ section on applying for benefits.

For each benefit, the guide provides information on:

·Who qualifies based on immigration status

·Income limits and other requirements for qualification

·Contact information, including phone number and web address, and information on how to locate the nearest office for the agency that administers the benefit

·Information on how to get an application in various languages

For copies of this guide, contact the Office of the Public Advocate at 212-669-7250. The guide can also be downloaded and printed in 6 languages at

For help applying for a benefit, call the Office of the Public Advocate at the number above. For help with immigration-related legal matters, please contact the NYS Immigration Hotline (212) 419-3737 or (800) 566-7636. The hotline can answer questions about immigration and naturalization in 17 languages and refer callers to an organization that can help.


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