Employees at "Help-is-Here Hotline" to Determine Whether Constituents Qualify for Financial Aid
By Yehudit Garmaise
Is the stress of inflation or a recent change in income making you wonder whether you might be eligible for city, state, and federal government programs?
Four employees at the office of state Sen. Felder will soon be standing by phones to help constituents take out the guesswork and anxiety of determining whether they qualify for help.
"Rising costs on everyday items affect everyone, but they pose a tremendous strain for people and families living on low or fixed incomes," said state Sen. Felder. "Fortunately, there are many government programs that can help people make ends meet, but there is also a lot of confusion, misunderstanding, and stigma holding people back."
Sen. Felder will offer his new service by phone, on Zoom, or in person on Tuesdays between 9am and 5pm.
Although the one-on-one appointments will start Dec. 13, Boro Parkers can now call (718) 253-2015 to book sessions in which employees can first assess, over the phone, whether callers qualify for any government programs.
"After we help callers to gather their relevant documentation, we can determine whether they should bother coming in to get help with applying for government programs," Sen. Felder said. "The initial phone calls help us first make sure that callers are eligible for some help before we ask them to schlep in."
Some of the documentation callers should be prepared to provide are W-2 forms, bills for rent or mortgage, utilities, childcare, and out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Once callers learn that they qualify for eligible safety net programs, one of state Sen. Felder's employees can help callers apply.
"People who are not making ends meet may already be on Medicaid, the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), food stamps, or other programs, but they don't think they will qualify for other programs," explained Sheri Toiv, Sen. Felder's communication director. "We just want to reach out to people and help them through the process.
"Inflation has made things difficult for a lot of people, who feel overwhelmed and confused about what kinds of assistance is available to them," Toiv said. "People may think the help is not for them, but it is. The help is there for anyone who needs it at the moment to get through this difficult period and get back on their feet."