The Benefits Plus Learning Center

The Benefits Plus Learning Center, a program of the Community Service Society of New York, was created 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. Over $2 billion in state and federal aid for poor New Yorkers goes unclaimed because people are not aware of their eligibility and face a number of barriers when applying for these benefits.

Families facing a complex government bureaucracy often seek out social service professionals who can assist them in navigating the system. Often these professionals lack the resources to serve these families and can spend countless hours searching for accurate information on benefits and housing programs, unraveling complicated programs and procedures, and attempting to locate government contacts.

The Center addresses their need by publishing manuals and other resources and offering training and consultation services designed to educate and support these professionals through the complexities of the public benefit system. These resources, created by the Learning Center’s staff and reviewed by experts in the field, are updated regularly, and provide professionals with a variety of methods in which to learn and access current information that ultimately increases their ability to effectively and efficiently help low-income families and individuals. The Learning Center annually serves, on average, some 1,000 professionals from over 250 CBOs across NYC, ultimately helping tens of thousands low-income clients access public benefits to help individuals and families forge a pathway out of poverty.

The Community Service Society

The Community Service Society (CSS) is a 170 year old institution that has been on the cutting edge of public policy innovations to support poor New Yorkers in their quest to be full participants in the civic life of the nation’s largest city.

The mission of the Community Service Society is to identify problems which create a permanent poverty class in New York City, and to advocate for the systemic changes required to eliminate such problems. CSS focuses on enabling, empowering and promoting opportunities for poor families and individuals to develop their full potential, to contribute to society, and to realize social, economic and political opportunities.

In addition, CSS builds the capacity of community based organizations by:

  • Equipping social service professionals through trainings and online resources with the tools and knowledge to successfully navigate the public benefit system on behalf of their clients;
  • Partnering with 39 agencies throughout NYS to serve as Navigators, who assist families and individuals with obtaining health insurance through the New York State of Health Marketplace;
  • Partnering with 20 agencies throughout NYC to provide income support services to workforce development organizations serving the poor and working poor, including eviction prevention assistance, summer camp funds, and financial support for individuals engaged in workforce development programs; and
  • Recruiting, training and placing 3,000 older adult volunteers in over 300 public and non-profit agencies throughout New York City.