Policy Matters – April 2022

Eòghann Renfroe April 29, 2022

Welcome to the April edition of our newsletter, Policy Matters. In this edition we cover the end of welfare mortgages in New York State, a final 2022 budget wrap-up, working to end abusive auto industry practices, and a training on coordinating HIV health benefits for people who are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare. You can read an archived version of the newsletter here.


New Era For Low Income Homeowners

Regular followers of Policy Matters will remember that last year we achieved a long sought after victory by ending the practice of requiring homeowners to give a mortgage on their homes in exchange for receiving welfare benefits. New York was the last state in the nation to end this practice, which perpetuated a cycle of poverty and prevented very low-income people from achieving economic stability and security for decades.

This budget we completed this victory by wiping all existing welfare mortgages off the books for good.

The regulations were released by OTDA last week, reading in part, “Effective April 9, 2022, districts must not recover any TA real property and/or mortgage liens that were previously accepted and have not yet been satisfied.” We’re immensely proud of the work done on this issue over the past decade by Senior Attorney Susan Antos, Benefits Attorney Jessica Radbord, Senior Attorney Kirsten Keefe, CEO & President Kristin Brown, as well as Empire Justice alums Tamara Frazier, Saima Akhtar, Gary Grasso, Evan Baer, and everyone who contributed to ending this practice.


2022 Budget Wrap-up

Ending welfare mortgages was not our only budget victory. Our other funding and policy campaigns were very successful:

  • Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP): $20 million from the Executive, with an additional $15 million from the Legislature to meet the increased need for services due to COVID.
  • Upstate and Long Island Eviction Defense: New funding of $35 million for services outside of New York City.
  • Disability Advocacy Program (DAP): Achieved a raise in funding to $12.52 million, up from $8.26 million, which will allow the program to tackle the backlog of cases caused by the physical closure of Social Security offices during the pandemic.
  • Community Health Advocates (CHA): Will now be able to offer services to all New Yorkers, including people on Medicaid.
  • Elimination of the 185% Standard of Need Test: We’ve long advocated for the elimination of this test, and it will result in small increase in the amount of money that very poor New Yorkers can receive every month.
  • Language Access: Codification and expansion of executive orders requiring state agencies to translate vital documents in the 12 most common non-English languages in the state, with four additional languages available based on regional needs.
  • Expansion of the Gender Recognition Act: Mandated creation of new X gender marker options for all state agencies, as well as a provision to ensure that transgender, nonbinary, and intersex New Yorkers are able to update their marriage certificates.

You can read more about all of these victories, as well as the budget overall, in our press statement: 2022 State Budget – Good Budget for Many Programs Benefitting Low-Income New Yorkers; Must Do More for Immigrants.


Pushing to End Abusive Auto Industry Practices

Senior Attorney Ruhi Maker took part in a New York/Connecticut roundtable discussion on abusive auto industry practices, and what can be done about them, with a collection of economists, advocates, and state representatives, including Yale’s Ian Ayres, Consumer Reports’ Chuck Bell, and Reps. Christopher Rosario and Quentin Williams.


HIV & Dual Eligible Benefits

Senior Health Attorney Fiona Wolfe and Health Attorney Alexia Mickles delivered a training on how to coordinate benefits for individuals living with HIV who are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare on April 12. The webinar was designed for health or social services providers and legal advocates who work with or advocate for people with HIV/AIDs.


Thank You For Reading

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The Empire Justice Policy Team