Policy Matters – February 2022

Eòghann Renfroe February 28, 2022

Welcome to the February edition of our newsletter, Policy Matters. In this edition we cover progress in plugging the funding gap for Crime Victims Services, our Housing and Human Services budget testimony, rallies to support health care coverage for all, and a push for equitable credit reporting for trans and nonbinary folks. You can read an archived version of the newsletter here.


Promising Progress for Crime Victims Services Funding

The budget process carries on, as the 30-Day Amendments have come and we now await the release of the One House Budgets sometime next month.

For legal services programs across the state, the 30-Day Amendments brought some measure of relief regarding the looming $26 million gap in funding for Crime Victims Services – an amendment to include $14.4 million help plug the gap. This gap is due to a temporary cut in Federal funding, and without closing this gap most providers will need to cut program services before full federal funding kicks back in.

We’re grateful to Governor Hochul for responding to this funding crisis, and we’re now looking to the Legislature to step up and fund the remainder.


Budget Testimony

We also continued our budget advocacy through the joint legislative hearings – Senior Attorney Kirsten Keefe prepared and submitted our Housing budget testimony on January 31, which covered the importance of fully funding the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) as New York State faces extremely high mortgage delinquency rates, especially for homeowners of color.

Emilia Sicilia, Statewide DAP Coordinator, delivered our Human Services budget testimony to the hearing on February 2. This testimony was prepared by Emilia, Senior Benefits Attorney Susan Antos, Health Attorney Alexia Mickles, and Senior Health Attorney Fiona Wolfe. This testimony covered a number of areas, with these three main requests:

  • Maintain the State Legislature’s investment of $3 million in the Disability Advocacy Program (DAP).
  • Reduce homelessness and child poverty by reforming public assistance budgeting rules.
  • Invest a total of $2.767 million in the Managed Care Consumer Assistance Program (MCCAP).


Coverage For All

Immigrant advocates in New York City, Long Island, and Yonkers held rallies on February 18 to push legislators to pass the Coverage for All bill (A.880-A/S.1572-A)

Coverage for All would expand health care coverage to all New Yorkers by creating a state-funded health coverage option for all New Yorkers with income up to 200% of the federal poverty line, regardless of immigration status.

Empire Justice is a member of the robust coalition of community members, community organizations, health care providers, legal services providers, and labor, immigrant, and health care consumer advocates pushing this bill, and Senior Paralegal, Cheryl Keshner, was among the advocates quoted in a Harlem World Magazine article about the demonstrations: “Coverage for All will improve and expand access to essential and lifesaving healthcare for countless immigrants in New York State. This is a public health issue and will benefit all members of our community.”


Making Credit More Equitable

Transgender and nonbinary consumers face myriad credit reporting problems after a legal name change, with serious consequences for their financial and personal lives.

  • Credit reports for an individual may fragment into two or more unconnected files.
  • Name changes and any further credit actions that follow are not reflected in their report at all.
  • Credit scores may drop by hundreds of points for no discernible reason.
  • Even after working with a credit agency to manually fix their report, many trans or nonbinary individuals find that a new upload of data reverts their credit histories back to fragmented or incomplete files.
  • Credit histories that include someone’s former name can out them as transgender to potential employers, rental agents, car dealerships, or financial institutions, opening people up to discrimination.

These issues can stop trans and nonbinary people from accessing banking services, mortgages, rental housing, auto financing, and even employment.

On February 24, we joined 145 LGBTQI, consumer, and antipoverty organizations in sending a letter to the largest credit consumer reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and the Consumer Data Industry Association, urging action to fix these problems with five concrete steps, outlined in the letter.


Advocacy for Systemic Change

Manager for Policy & Communications, Eòghann Renfroe, will be presenting NYTAG Conversations: Advocacy for Systemic Policy Change on Monday Feb 28, at 7:00 PM.

This presentation, in partnership with the New York Transgender Advocacy Group (NYTAG) is for folks who want to learn how to translate personal or individual advocacy into systemic policy change advocacy – changing the systems and laws in which we live for the better.

NYTAG Conversations is a free conversation and workshop series for transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary community members and accomplices. Register here.


CASH Is Helping Rochester Residents

We are proud to announce that CASH has already helped Rochester residents claim $2 million in Federal and State Refunds in the first 3 weeks of tax season!

“Just three weeks into the tax season it has been remarkable to watch our staff and volunteers work alongside our clients to connect them to the tax credits they have earned while saving them over $175,000 in processing fees,” said CASH Director, Yversha Roman. “As we know, every dollar back into the hands of our families equates to more secure housing, food on the table, and overall financial health.”

If you’re in the Rochester area you can schedule your appointment for free tax preparation today! Call 585-900-1004 or visit https://empirejustice.org/cash for more information.


Legal Help Line

Don’t forget! Our Long Island Immigration Legal Help Line is available every Tuesday from 2:00-4:00 pm, at 631-533-2238 to speak to an immigration attorney from Empire Justice Center who will answer your questions on your legal rights. You can also email us at EJCimmigrationhotline@gmail.com to make an appointment. ¡Se habla Español!


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.

You can find all of our 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