New York City’s welfare caseloads are expanding again—a deliberate and predictable outcome of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s policies, as Manhattan Institute’s Steve Eide points out in his new “Poverty and Progress in New York” report today.

Two key findings:

  • New York City ended 2014 with more people on welfare than it began. Midyear, the Human Resources Administration (HRA) announced major changes to the city’s public assistance program; by the end of 2014, enrollment had grown by about 16,000 since the HRA announcement.
  • This increase has come during a time of relative prosperity for the local economy, which added more than 90,000 jobs in 2014. Significant growth came in low-wage industries likely to hire welfare recipients. Throughout New York City’s history, the general tendency has been for welfare enrollment to decline as job numbers grow.

The trend is the opposite of projections in Governor Cuomo’s state financial plan, as illustrated below. The governor assumes the number of welfare recipients statewide will decline steadily over the next four years.


To be sure, the state budget numbers are, as usual, slightly inflated: for example, average total welfare recipients through the first nine months of fiscal 2015 were 566,000, about 14,000 less than projected in the budget, according to data from the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

The city trend, wherever it leads, is likely to dominate the direction of welfare dependent and its impact on the state budget in the future. As noted here last year, a bigger caseload will mean higher expenditures.

After an enormous drop between 1996 and 2012, the number of welfare recipients remains very low by historical standards, Eide said. In addition, the number of city residents receiving federally funded Supplemental Nutritional Assistance (i.e., Food Stamp) benefits has declined in the past year.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

As a Supreme Court Ruling Loomed, Cuomo Bent His Own Rules on COVID ‘Clusters’

In the midst of the constitutional showdown over his pandemic policies, Governor Cuomo made changes to a disputed Brooklyn 'cluster zone' that seemed to contradict his own declared guidelines. Read More

In Pandemic Recovery, New York’s Tax Base Is More Fragile Than Ever

New York's exceptionally wealthy state tax base is also exceptionally fragile, due to its heavy dependence on the highly volatile (and portable) investment-driven incomes of Wall Street workers and fund managers. Read More

De Blasio’s (Apparent) Good Move Dissolves Into Phony “Savings”

Late Thursday, as hailed in this space, Mayor de Blasio finally made a decisive move—or at least seemed to make a move—in the direction of actually saving some money on labor costs by getting tough with a powerful (and powerfully self-entitled) municipal union. Read More

Not a Moment Too Soon, Bill de Blasio Is Setting a Good Fiscal Example

After months of flailing, floundering and stalling on desperately needed cuts to New York City's pandemic-ravaged budget, Mayor de Blasio just made a smart and appropriate move to save money—in the process defying one of New York's most powerful government employee unions. Read More

A grim toll gets worse

The full toll of the coronavirus pandemic in New York is likely thousands higher than the official death tallies, according to newly released federal data. Read More

Why New York?

#NYCoronavirus: It's increasingly apparent that New York is suffering more severely from the coronavirus pandemic than any other part of the U.S. and most of the rest of the world – raising stark questions for city and state leaders. What is it about New York, and especially New York City, that made it especially vulnerable to infection and death? And how can that be changed before the next virus breaks loose? Read More

A first look at de Blasio care

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made a splash this morning by announcing a plan "to guarantee health care" for every city resident. Although his office called it "the largest, most comprehensive plan in the nation," the proposal appears – based on limited details provided so far – to be a relatively modest expansion of existing safety-net programs. Read More

Single payer, double standard

The New York City Council's vote of support on Tuesday for a statewide single-payer health plan showed curious timing from a fiscal point of view. Two weeks before, sponsors of the New York Health Act told union officials that they were changing the bill in ways that could cost the city billions of dollars per year. Details of these high-stakes changes won't be available until next month, yet Council members chose to back the measure anyway – effectively endorsing a blank check. Read More


Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.


Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries:

Press Inquiries:


The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!