What You Should Know About Emergency Assistance and DSS/HRA


If you have an emergency and cannot afford to solve the problem, your local Department of Social Services (DSS) may be able to help.

What is an emergency?

  • You have no food.
  • You have no place to stay, or you are facing eviction or foreclosure.
  • You have no fuel for heating during the cold weather period.
  • You have a notice of utility shut off within 72 hours, or your utilities have been shut off.
  • You lack items necessary to meet your household’s  health and safety needs, and there are no resources available to meet the emergency.

What kinds of emergency assistance are available?  

  • Expedited food stamps and/or food vouchers
  • Payment of rent, mortgage or property tax arrears
  • Payment of storage, moving expenses, security deposits to prevent homelessness
  • Temporary housing assistance
  • Payment to utility or fuel company to get or keep utilities on
  • Repairs to property you own that are essential to health or safety
  • Replacement of clothing or furnishings lost in a fire, flood or other catastrophe
  • Emergency child care
  • Help with transportation
  • Referral to community agencies who can help


How do I get emergency assistance?

You DO NOT need to be eligible for public assistance to get emergency assistance.

If you don’t receive public assistance now:   
You must fill out an application at your county DSS.  It is a good idea to get there as early in the morning as possible. Tell the person at the window what kind of emergency you are having and ask to fill out an application for Emergency Assistance.

If you receive public assistance now:  
Contact your caseworker.  You do not need to fill out an application.

 What do I need to bring with me when I apply for emergency assistance?

- Identification for everyone in your household
- Proof of your income and expenses
- Proof of the emergency such as a utility shut-off notice, or an eviction notice

What is DSS supposed to do when I apply?
DSS must see you the same day you apply or schedule an appointment in time to deal with the emergency.  They must give you a notice that day about what they are going to do about the emergency.

What if DSS denies my application or does nothing?
You can ask for a Fair Hearing.  If you get a notice, it will explain how to request a Fair Hearing.  If you have an emergency, you should ask for an “expedited” Fair Hearing, which means it will be scheduled as soon as possible.  See the Fair Hearing article for more information.

Legal Help
If you have an emergency and DSS will not help, you can contact your local legal services office for possible help in challenging DSS’s decision.  The notice from DSS will have contact information for legal assistance.  


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This article provides general information about this subject. Laws affecting this subject may have changed since this article was written. For specific legal advice about a problem you are having, get the advice of a lawyer.  Receiving this information does not make you a client of our office.


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