Policy Matters – June 2022

Eòghann Renfroe June 30, 2022

Welcome to the June edition of our newsletter, Policy Matters. In this edition we wrap up the legislative session with bills on pandemic assistance, protecting medical patients from health provider liens and garnishments, and establishing a wellness and equity fund to support transgender New Yorkers; testimony on the future of NYS courts, legal analysis of possible new tenant protections, comments on community reinvestment in Rochester, a presentation on legal tools to help reduce gun violence, and our participation in National Give Out Day – don’t forget to support our work on LGBTQ rights! You can read an archived version of the newsletter here.


2022 Session Wrap-up

The legislative session ended with a number of bills left unfinished. The bill to waive pandemic unemployment assistance repayments under certain circumstances (S.6244-B/A.7511) passed the Senate but didn’t make it to the floor in the Assembly. This bill would help many New Yorkers who received payments through no fault on their part, so they do not have to pay for mistakes made by the Department of Labor, especially since  these payments have already been used to pay for rent, groceries, and other necessities.

However, we are happy to say that the end of session did bring another victory for poor New Yorkers – Protecting Patients from Health Provider Liens & Garnishments (A.7363/S.6522) passed both houses and is waiting to be sent to the Governor for signature. This bill would stop health providers from being allowed to place liens on patients’ homes or garnish their wages.

And this past Sunday came another victory for transgender New Yorkers as Governor Hochul signed the bill establishing the Lorena Borjas Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund (A.9418/S.8884). This fund will support organizations that provide critical services for the transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary and intersex (TGNCNBI) community, and is named for noted transgender activist Lorena Borjas, who sadly passed from COVID-19 in 2020. Lorena dedicated her life to supporting transgender immigrants, many of whom fled transphobic oppression in their home countries. We are happy to have been a part of making this fund a reality.


Looking to the Future of NYS Courts

Our President & CEO, Kristin Brown, presented testimony to the Commission to Reimagine the Future of New York’s Courts on June 7th. This testimony was brought together expertise from across our organization, and focused on three key issue areas for the courts to address:

  • The need for statewide consistency and development of best practices
  • The barriers created by mandating notarization
  • The urgent need for language justice in the courts


Legal Analysis – Tenant Dignity and Safe Housing Act

Our Senior Housing Attorney, Michael Furlano, wrote a legal analysis of the recently passed Tenant Dignity and Safe Housing Act, and the ways this act, if signed by Governor Hochul, would provide a clear right of action for tenants to compel repairs and to seek monetary relief for living with hazardous and unsafe conditions – all without risking eviction.


Comments on Five Star Bank’s Rochester Reinvestment Performance

The Greater Rochester Community Reinvestment Coalition (GRCRC), which Empire Justice Center convenes, recently commented on Five Star Bank’s performance in reinvesting in the Rochester community. The comments focus on three areas:

  • Five Star’s Home Mortgage Disclosure Act/Mortgage Lending
  • Five Star’s Community Reinvestment Act Small Business Lending
  • Five Star’s Reinvestment of Deposits into the Community, Response to Community Needs and Opportunities for Investment

Barb Van Kerkhove, our Consumer Policy Analyst, also attended the National Community Reinvestment Coalition Conference – the first since 2019!


Legal Tools to Reduce the Risk of Gun Violence

In the wake of the terrible mass shooting in Buffalo on May 14, legal services providers have been looking for ways to use their skills to help reduce the risk of gun violence. Our Senior DV Attorney, Amy Schwartz-Wallace, and Project Leader of the Crime Victims Legal Network, Remla Parthasarathy, teamed up with the Minority Bar Association of WNY and the Bar Association of Erie County to create and present a CLE on New York’s Red Flag Law: What Attorneys Need to Know to File an Application (Extreme Risk Protection Order).

The Red Flag Law, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order Law, prevents individuals who are at risk of hurting themselves or others from purchasing or possessing firearms, rifles, or shotguns. This law, which went into effect in August 2019, can be an important tool in preventing domestic violence homicides, suicides, and situations of mass violence, but many practitioners still don’t know about Emergency Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) and how to obtain this civil protection order. Please note: We are still reviewing the recent SCOTUS decision on concealed carry weapons, but at this time we do not think it will affect the Red Flag law or its recent amendments.


National Give Out Day

And lastly, today is National Give Out Day – a national day of giving for organizations that provide services to the LGBTQ+ community. Please consider giving to our LGBTQ Rights Project, which advocates for the queer and transgender community by engaging in systems change, providing legal training and technical assistance, and providing direct representation and legal counsel to individual community members.


Thank You For Reading

Policy Matters will be taking a break for the summer, but we’ll be back in September. In the meantime, 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