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New York State Emphasizes Help Available to Those Struggling Economically in Central New York

Albany, NY (December 16, 2009) - The State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) and the State Department of Labor today discussed the unemployment situation in Central New York and programs and services available to help struggling New Yorkers provide for themselves and their families in these difficult times. At an event in Syracuse, State and local officials discussed the local unemployment situation and what is being done to help the unemployed. State officials also reminded people struggling to put food on the table that they can now apply for food stamp assistance online throughout Central New York.

Under Governor David A. Paterson's leadership, New York has created a web site where anyone can quickly and easily find out what benefits and services they may be eligible for at The site also offers an electronic food stamp application, allowing residents throughout Central New York to apply online.

"New York State agencies and departments have many resources available to help struggling families make ends meet," said Governor Paterson. "The myBenefits website is an invaluable tool to help connect New Yorkers with valuable benefits, services and economic supports. I encourage all New Yorkers to also visit my website -- and click on the link for 'Resources for Working Families,' to learn more about the programs that New York State has to offer."

"We recognize that many of those hard hit by the downturn have never sought help before, and we're working to make it as easy as possible for those who are eligible to obtain benefits," said Elizabeth Berlin, OTDA Executive Deputy Commissioner. "The myBenefits site allows people to apply for food stamps without having to take time off from work, or from looking for work, to visit the local department of social services to apply. As a result of the numerous steps we've taken over the past two years to make it easier for those eligible to access food stamp benefits, New York State has been well-positioned to respond to the increased demand."

"Although some say this brutal recession is ending, too many New Yorkers are still unemployed, struggling to provide food and shelter for themselves and their families," State Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith said. "Unemployment benefits can only stretch so far, and we urge anyone in need to take advantage of benefits and services offered through the web site."

"We see daily the impact on individuals as they face the challenge of providing nutritious food for their families in this difficult economy: choices being made daily between food and rent, medicine, utilities," said Mary Beth Frey, Executive Director of the Samaritan Center, a local soup kitchen in downtown Syracuse. "The myBenefits web site holds the potential of bringing critical support and resources to struggling families."

The myBenefits site, launched in May 2008, allows New Yorkers to complete a simple online prescreening to determine whether they are likely to qualify for multiple benefits including food stamps, home energy assistance, Earned Income Tax Credits, child and dependent care credits, Medicaid, Family Health Plus, Child Health Plus and school lunch programs, among others. Plans call for including additional program screenings through myBenefits over time, with the ultimate goal of allowing individuals and families to apply for an array of programs by answering one set of simple questions online.

Residents of 27 counties including Onondaga, Oswego, Madison, Cayuga and Cortland can already submit a food stamp application through the website with the assistance of designated community organizations. Additionally, residents of 12 counties including Onondaga, Oswego and Madison can use myBenefits to apply directly for food stamps from any computer with Internet access at any time convenient for them.

Between September 2008 and September 2009, the number of individuals receiving food stamp benefits in Central New York has increased 26 percent, going from more than 75,000 people to just over 95,000. Statewide, enrollment grew 23% over the same period to more than 2.5 million recipients, an all-time high.

Governor Paterson, OTDA and the Department of Labor have made the economic security of New Yorkers a priority. Those facing the loss of unemployment benefits, collecting unemployment, or just having a hard time getting by financially, should visit to see what assistance may be available to them.