Legislation in New York clearly recognizes the power of data sharing to help the state’s residents ease their way into government benefits if they are eligible. Government benefits fraud is real (see here and here) and too many people are attempting to commit a crime by falsely claiming eligibility. Too many innocent people have benefits that are rightly theirs delayed or denied because of challenges in determining eligibility.
CDIA members support vibrant data flows to prevent fraud and to help consumers get fast access to their government benefits. Assembly Bill 9099 recognizes how data helps consumers. Under the bill, the commissioner of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance “shall establish a statewide program to provide for automated identification of eligible affordability program participants for participation in utility corporation energy affordability programs.” To accomplish the aims of the bill, the OTDA “shall engage with utility corporations [as regulated by to Public Service Law article two for residential gas, electric, and steam] to establish automated file matching mechanisms that will provide, via electronic means, to utility corporations a list of eligible affordability program participants within the utility corporation’s service territory.”
Eligible affordability program participants are people on public assistance as enumerated in the bill, including SSI and SNAP.
The bill is sponsored by Assemblymember Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island), the chair of the Energy Committee. In his statement of support, Cusick notes that New Yorkers continue to “struggle[e] to make ends meet…It is essential that utility customers throughout the state are connected to any and all assistance programs for which they are eligible. This legislation would require OTDA to coordinate with utilities to automate that process in a manner similar to the HRA [Human Resources Administration] process in New York City. This will help ensure that more low-income New Yorkers are receiving the assistance to which they are entitled.” And, “an automated process is also more efficient and less costly to administer than identifying customers on a case-by-case manner. Making filing matching a statewide practice is an efficient utilization of state and utility resources in a streamlined manner.”
Eric J. Ellman is Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA) in Washington, DC. He also served for eight months as Interim President and CEO of the Association. More