Legal Aid Society


LAS Announces Distribution of $22M for New Yorkers Denied Public Benefits

The Legal Aid Society today announced the distribution of over $22 million pursuant to a class action settlement with the City and State to 54,280 New Yorkers who received public assistance and whose benefits were wrongfully reduced or stopped between 2007 and 2015, as reported by AMNY.

Filed in April 2010, Smith v. Proud was brought by Legal Aid and Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP against the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) and the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA).

During the period targeted by the lawsuit, tens of thousands of individuals received notices from the HRA stating that their subsistence level cash assistance and/or food benefits were being terminated or reduced due to an alleged failure to comply with the agency’s requirements that recipients seek and maintain employment. Under the settlement, the City and State restored benefits to those recipients.

“We are proud of the years of advocacy and litigation that went into getting our clients and all New Yorkers who are on public assistance and were unlawfully sanctioned some justice,” said Les Helfman, a Senior Staff Attorney in the Brooklyn Neighborhood Office of The Legal Aid Society. “The benefit levels that recipients receive are not enough to pay rent and meet basic needs to begin with, but when families were sanctioned, they were pushed even deeper into poverty. This settlement provides compensation for the neediest of these clients.”