Fighting urban poverty by ensuring access to public benefits for every eligible New Yorker
The Community Service Society of New York (CSS) seeks to reduce poverty by ensuring eligible New Yorkers can access public benefits to which they are entitled, but which go unclaimed, year after year.

Need by the Numbers
In the face of extraordinary need, some $2 billion in state and federal aid set aside for poor New Yorkers goes unclaimed by those who are eligible. The main reasons: New Yorkers are not aware of eligibility Barriers to applying for benefits are too great-especially for those who can’t take time off from work--and low-literacy populations, such as new immigrants Social service providers on the “front lines” are overworked, understaffed, and simply don’t have the capacity to serve the many New Yorkers in need

Our Approach: Training the Trainers
Technical assistance: CBS provides year-round,
in-depth public benefits access trainings tailored to social service professionals. Sample topics include: Overview of Domestic Violence Services and Resources; Immigrants’ Eligibility for Public Benefits; Housing Court; and Child Support and Public Benefits.

Consultation services: CBS staff provides one-on-one
assistance to social service professionals on particular programs or client issues. Such support includes identification of key government contacts who can help resolve problems, or assistance in overcoming stumbling blocks on a given client’s case.

Publications: CBS publishes manuals, guides, and

CSS Responds: The Center for Benefits and Services
In 2007, CSS launched the Center for Benefits & Services (CBS), combining its renowned Public Benefits Resource Center, Tenant Advocacy Project, and client services work, with the specific goal of increasing access to public benefits for low-income New Yorkers—many of whom are employed but still unable to make ends meet. CBS annually serves more than 1,000 professionals who represent 300+ CBOs across New York City, ultimately helping 100,000 low-income families and individuals obtain more than 75 different public benefits, such as Medicaid, Child Health Plus, Food Stamps, housing supports, Cash Assistance, SSI, Earned Income Tax Credits, and unemployment benefits, and much more. Access to public benefits helps individuals and families out of poverty and strengthens the City’s economy at the same time.

brochures on public benefit programs and public housing for both the professional and the consumer. The CBS Public Benefits Manual is a comprehensive guide for the social service professional on more than 75 benefits and services, providing information on basic eligibility, application, and recertification procedures.

Policy development: CBS works with CSS’s research
and policy experts, using front-line, real-time experiences of CBS partners to help shape policy solutions to prevalent access obstacles.

Client services: Individual clients referred by CSS
partners receive one-on-one case management across a range of areas, including benefits, housing, and health insurance navigation. Cash assistance grants are also provided for clients in crisis.



The CBS Partnership Initiative

Strengthening programs that help New Yorkers
CBS programs and services help thousands of low-income New Yorkers, many of whom are struggling to obtain jobs. The Center also works to assist employed New Yorkers whose wages don’t cover the high cost of rent, food, and medical care in our city. The CBS Partnership Initiative, launched in January 2009, teams the Community Service Society with community based organizations (CBOs) that promote employment and increased economic stability through job training programs. Through The Partnership Initiative, CBS provides technical training and assistance to the CBO staff, better enabling their clients to receive a range of public benefits that enhance their ability to successfully complete their job training programs. CSS’s combination of expertise in and ability to access public benefits programs, housing, financial assistance/management and more, significantly builds the capacity of the CBOs. For example, assistance with accessing child care, food stamps or other transitional work related benefits allow individuals to take the first step into employment or be able to sustain a job. Partnering agencies in turn help quantify problems encountered by families attempting to use available benefits, and participate in guiding new advocacy campaigns and the development of CSS’s policy agenda. Level I and Level II Partners can attend all trainings free of charge, use the on-line Public Benefits Manual and get individualized consultation from our benefit experts. Level I Partners also have access to financial assistance for their participants. Visit for a list of Partnership Initiative organizations. The Community Service Society is an informed, independent, unwavering voice for positive action that serves the needs of our constituents-–low-income New Yorkers. Through applied research, advocacy, litigation, and innovative program models, CSS shapes actionable policy solutions that strengthen and benefit all New Yorkers.

Joining the fight against eviction, displacement
The extraordinary rent-income pressures of New York City have a destabilizing effect on poor communities, placing millions of low-income New Yorkers at risk of housing hardships and displacement. CBS remains an active member of the Emergency Rent Coalition (ERC). The ERC is committed to assisting and advocating for New Yorkers at risk of eviction/homelessness by providing education and relief to families threatened with eviction. We take referrals for eviction prevention assistance from other ERC members.

“The assistance I received through CBS helped make it possible for me to complete my Commercial Drivers License training with flying colors, and get the job I love.”
Martha Hernandez, a professional motor coach operator, received rent, licensing fee and other assistance from CBS through a partnership with Brooklyn Workforce Innovations.

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