For Immediate Release
February 3, 2023
For More Information Contact Alex Dery Snider:
Statement from Empire Justice Center President and CEO Kristin Brown on Governor Hochul’s executive budget:
“While we were grateful to see positive steps – including the continued funding of important programs that provide legal assistance to low income New Yorkers like the Disability Advocacy Program, Education Debt Consumer Assistance Program, and Community Health Advocates; indexing of the minimum wage; and addressing “skimming” of public benefits – there were a number of notable gaps, including increasing the Shelter Allowance and Cash Assistance grant levels, which are woefully out of date. Additionally, Empire Justice advocates are shocked to see that funding for foreclosure prevention through the Homeowners Protection Program (HOPP) was cut entirely from the executive budget. The lack of support to current homeowners is especially concerning given the Governor’s historic commitment to build 800,000 new homes in every part of the state. Last year’s budget included $35 million.
HOPP is New York State’s only homeowner retention program. It funds 89 non-profits providing housing counseling and legal services to distressed homeowners in every county of the state since 2012. More than 275,000 New York homeowners currently report being behind on their mortgage according to U.S. Census data and that is not counting families facing tax foreclosure. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated issues for homeowners especially in Black and Brown communities. Post-pandemic assistance programs are helpful but complicated to navigate and even tougher with recent interest rate hikes. After a decade of building the HOPP network, passing laws to help homeowners that depend on HOPP services, and given the historic push to increase the housing stock, getting rid of services that help current homeowners will be disastrous for families, the courts, and communities. Historically, each $1 million invested in HOPP yields a return of over $5 million in tax and property cost savings.
Cutting HOPP would be devastating for struggling homeowners and their communities. We call on the Governor to restore funding in a 30-day amendment and we ask for total funding of $40 million to support this crucial program.”
About Empire Justice Center
Empire Justice Center is a statewide nonprofit law firm with offices in Rochester, Albany, Yonkers, White Plains, and on Long Island whose mission is to make the law work for all New Yorkers, particularly for those who need its protection most. We take a 360-degree, comprehensive approach to changing systems by engaging in three major and interconnected areas of service. We teach the law by providing training, support and technical assistance to legal services and other community-based organizations to strengthen their work; we practice the law by providing direct, civil legal assistance to low-income people with a particular focus on those from marginalized communities such as LGBTQ; minorities, immigrants and LEP; and crime victims; and we change the law by engaging in policy analysis, research and advocacy and undertaking impact litigation to get at the root of systemic issues.