Policy Matters – Nov/Dec 2021 – 2022 Policy Priorities

Eòghann Renfroe December 13, 2021

For this combined November/December edition of our Policy Matters newsletter we are sharing our 2022 Policy Priorities. You can read an archived version of the newsletter here.

The full PDF of the agenda is here: 2022 Policy Priorities – Empire Justice Center.

As a leading statewide organization working to achieve social and economic justice for people in New York State who are poor, disabled, and disenfranchised, our agenda will focus on making an impact in the following three areas:


Access to Justice                                                            

  • Access to Representation Act (S.0081/A.1961): Constitutional protections do not apply to immigration law, including the right to an attorney even though immigrants often face hostile actions such as being arrested by federal agents, enduring months of detention in jails, and deportation. This law would provide legal representation for low-income immigrants in New York regardless of legal status. ASK: Pass the Access to Representation Act.
  • Community Health Advocates (CHA): CHA helps New Yorkers navigate today’s complex health care system by providing individual assistance, outreach, and education to communities throughout New York State. Since 2010 CHA has helped 337,000 New Yorkers – individuals, families, and small businesses. ASK: Funding of $5.109 million for CHA.
  • Disability Advocacy Program (DAP):For over three decades, DAP has provided legal assistance to low income disabled New Yorkers seeking Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSD). DAP serves approximately 4,000 New Yorkers each year and has returned over $1.1 billion to the state and local counties since its inception in 1983, making it one of New York’s most long-lasting and respected legal programs. ASK: Funding of $9.26 million (inclusive of a 50% county match) for DAP.
  • Liberty Defense Program (LDP): The Liberty Defense Program helps immigrant New Yorkers navigate the complex systems of naturalization, permanent residency, employment authorization as well as representation through deportation screenings and other cases important for keeping friends, coworkers, communities, and families together. ASK: Funding of $15.3 million for the Liberty Defense Program.
  • Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP): HOPP provides counseling and legal services to distressed homeowners. Since 2012, HOPP grantees have served an average of 15,833 families per year. Every $1 million invested in HOPP yields a return of over $5 million in tax and property cost savings alone. ASK: Funding of $115 million for three years, at least $35 million for 2022.


Social Justice

  • Expand Access to Language (S.5236/A7428). New York State’s language access policy has not kept up with the rapid growth and diversification of immigrant communities in the State leaving out large groups of immigrant New Yorkers. This bill would require state and local agencies to provide vital documents and forms in the 12 most common non-English languages spoken by limited English proficient immigrants of five years or less according to the American Community Survey, as published by the United States census bureau. ASK: Pass Expand Access to Language bill.
  • Updated Guidance for Transgender & GNC Students: New York State released guidelines for transgender and gender non-conforming students in 2015 which have been extremely successful in creating safer, more equitable school environments for New York students, and even cited at the national level. However, implementation of these guidelines has been variable across the state, meaning too many students are still being left behind. ASK: Release updated guidance for Trans and GNC students.


Economic Justice

  • Consumer and Small Business Protection Act (A.2495/S.6414-A): New York has fallen behind 39 other states in protecting consumers and small businesses against predatory practices. This bill would allow New York to prohibit unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and allow consumer to recover damages. Enacting this bill into law is joint priority for Empire Justice Center and New York for Responsible Lending. ASK: Pass the Consumer and Small Business Protection Act.
  • Fair Play in Employment Act: Too many employers abuse the independent contractor label to evade responsibility for their workforce. This robs workers of basic labor standards, such as wage and hour protections, health and safety standards, workers compensation, and unemployment insurance. Currently, New York is behind 26 other states and uses a classification system that especially hurts low-wage New Yorkers in nearly every industry from bike messengers and for-hire drivers to app based workers, tutors, nail workers and night club workers. ASK: Pass the Fair Play in Employment Act.
  • Protecting Patients from Health Provider Liens & Garnishments (A.7363/S.6522): Health providers should not be allowed to place liens on patients’ homes or garnish their wages. This bill would eliminate both practices, protecting patients from liens against their primary residence and wage garnishment due to money judgments arising from actions brought by hospitals. ASK: Pass (A.7363/S.6522).
  • Public Banking Act (S.1762-A /A.8290): This legislation would create a regulatory framework for local public banks in New York, giving local governments the option to apply for a special purpose public bank charter from the NYS Department of Financial Services. Through public banking, local governments can invest in critical community needs—from deeply affordable housing to locally-owned small businesses, renewable energy and more—advancing racial equity, resilience and sustainability in New York communities hardest hit by COVID-19. ASK: Pass the Public Banking Act.


Join Us In Being Changemakers

We are known for our ability to identify critical issues affecting low income New Yorkers, develop and implement creative solutions, and monitor ongoing results. Our staff has protected and strengthened the legal rights of people in New York who are poor, disabled or disenfranchised for more than forty years. We do this through three major areas of service:

We teach the law by providing training, support and technical assistance to legal services and
private attorneys and other community-based advocates to help them better serve their clients.

We practice the law by providing direct civil legal assistance and undertaking impact litigation.

We improve the law by engaging in policy analysis, research and advocacy.

This giving season, we invite you to join us in being changemakers by donating to Empire Justice Center and helping us continue to make the law work for all New Yorkers.



Thank You For Reading

If you’d like to keep up with our policy work, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, or visit the Policy Central page on our website.

We also have a collection of COVID-19 free legal resources on our website, and if you need help, you can find contact information for each of our offices here.

The Empire Justice Policy Team