NEWSLETTER: Policy Matters – July 2018

Policy Central August 03, 2018

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Policy Matters – July 2018


The legislature is out of town and the weather is hot and humid – but here at Empire Justice Center we have kept the pressure up, pushing forward on important policy and systems change initiatives in education, disability advocacy, nutrition access, and LGBTQ family law. Find out more in this July edition of Policy Matters.



Empire Justice has been working to support transgender and gender-nonconforming students in public schools since 2014, when we convened a group of advocates to work with the New York State Education Department (NYSED) on the creation of landmark guidance which was released in July 2015. This month, we submitted our comment on the emergency regulation released by NYSED in May, including three clear suggestions to improve and clarify the regulation before it is finalized to best support students, teachers, and other staff.


Disability Advocacy

Major changes to the Social Security appeals process have been proposed for a number of prototype states, including New York. Unfortunately, these proposed changes are likely to do little-to-nothing to improve the appeals process or to influence the eventual outcomes of disability determinations – but will increase the already lengthy wait times for final decisions, which already take between one a half to two years on average – an agonizingly long time for disabled New Yorkers to be forced to wait for the income they need to pay for rent, food, and other necessities. Read more in the testimony we submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives.


Public Benefits

We also submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in response to a call for information from the agency on how it could best update its SNAP Quality Control system. We are recommending four different ways to improve the existing system and bring into better alignment with other SNAP practices.


In Case You Missed It

Empire Justice Center and the Legal Aid Society of Rochester secured a huge victory for LGBTQ families in New York, with the 4th Department determining, in a unanimous decision, that civil union spouses have the right to equitable distribution when that civil union ends. Though marriage equality has been the legal in New York since 2011, previous to that many LGBTQ New Yorkers travelled to neighboring states, such as Vermont, to enter into civil unions, which, while unavailable in New York, were recognized by the state. This decision cements that New York spouses who have entered into a civil union have property rights similar to those of a marriage.


That’s all for this month! Policy matters will be taking a break in August but we’ll be back in September – in the meantime, follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep track of the latest on issues affecting the legal rights of poor, disabled, or disenfranchised New Yorkers.


The Empire Justice Policy Team