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Final word on foreclosure funding expected Friday

Patrick Connelly, Buffalo Law Journal March 28, 2019

Final word on foreclosure funding expected Friday

Buffalo Business First, Patrick Connelly, 3.28.19

 

Workers who assist with state funded free legal foreclosure services have eagerly waited to find out if they’ll still have jobs after April 1.

The final word is expected Friday on whether nonprofits around New York will receive the $20 million in funding they say they need to keep services on pace with the release of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget.

“We’re not looking for more money, we’re just looking to stay stable,” said Kristin Brown, vice president for policy and government relations at Empire Justice Center.

Brown’s advocated for the funding in Albany to state legislators. The funds would continue to bankroll the foreclosure services provided by 89 nonprofits in the state such as the Center for Elder Law and Justice, Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo Inc., and the Western New York Law Center.

The organizations annually receive funding through the state’s Communities First program. It had operated on disbursements from settlements dating back to the 2008 financial crisis that near depletion.

“The money is drying up,” Brown said. “Across the sate we have programs that have sent out pink slips to their employees with April 1 as the (effective end-of-employment) date. … People are holding their breath waiting to see what (may) happen.”

Cuomo’s initial budget did not include the allotment, causing CELJ and others to panic.

It’s left them in a “tricky spot” not knowing how to proceed with taking on new cases for income eligible homeowners, said Kevin Quinn, supervising attorney at CELJ.

“We’re still kind of a bit in limbo,” he said. “It’s been tough.”

Without the funding, Quinn said homeowners who use the free legal services would be left in a lurch and have to navigate the complexities of a foreclosure on their own.

Brown added that it could force 2/3 of the nonprofits in the network to shut down.

Quinn said he remains optimistic the funding will come through and Brown noted that state Senate and Assembly have been understanding.

“This is a pretty dire situation but we’re very hopeful that the commitment that has been communicated to us by (state legislators) will be maintained,” she said.