Policy Matters – March 2021

Eòghann Renfroe March 29, 2021


Welcome to the March edition of our newsletter, Policy Matters. In this edition we cover movement on the Gender Recognition Act, issue one last update on the State Budget, highlight an immigration legal services project, and share webinars on the legal name changes for trans new Yorkers and the Paycheck Protection Program. You can read an archived version of the newsletter here.


Gender Recognition Act Moves Forward

Access to accurate identity documents can be key in many areas of life, whether you’re trying to get a job, enroll your children in school, rent an apartment, or see the doctor. But for transgender and nonbinary New Yorkers there are a multitude of legal, financial, and logistical barriers to updating their documents with the correct name and gender.

The Gender Recognition Act (GRA) A.5465/S.4402, seeks to change that, introducing streamlined and privacy-protective processes for updating birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and legal name changes. On March 8, this comprehensive bill moved out of the Senate Codes committee and is poised to go to the floor for a vote.


State Budget Campaigns

We are mere days away from the end of the State Budget process, and as we enter the final stretch we are cautiously optimistic about many of Empire Justice’s funding priorities.

  • Disability Advocacy Program (DAP) has level funding of $8.26 million in both one house budget bills.
  • Home Owner Protection Program (HOPP) has level funding of $20 million in both one house budget bills.
  • Consumer Health Advocates (CHA) is well-positioned for level funding of $4.3 million in the final budget.
  • Legal Services Assistance Fund (LSAF) has level funding of $2.4 million in both one house budget bills.
  • Liberty Defense Project (LDP) is well-positioned for at least level funding of $10 million in the final budget.

We’re grateful for the support of legislators, their staff, and our colleagues in the advocacy community for working with us on these important issues!


Budget Highlight: Liberty Defense Project

Our last Budget Highlight for the season is the Liberty Defense Project, or LDP.

What is the Liberty Defense Project?

The Liberty Defense Project provides free legal services to immigrants throughout New York State, helping immigrant New Yorkers navigate the complex systems of naturalization, permanent residency, and employment authorization as well as representation through deportation screenings and Know Your Rights trainings for immigrants and the community at large.

The Liberty Defense Project includes a statewide coalition of 182 advocacy organizations, 14 law schools, 21 law firms and 14 bar associations. Empire Justice Center is one of the main project partners, in addition to the Asian American Federation; Catholic Charities Community Services (Archdiocese of New York); Hispanic Federation; New York Immigration Coalition; Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights; and the Vera Institute of Justice.

Since its inception in 2017, the Liberty Defense Project has provided more than 45,000 vital legal services to immigrants and communities in need

Why is Liberty Defense Project Important?

Immigrants with legal representation are up to ten times as likely to establish a right to remain in the United States as those without.

The past 4 years saw the implementation of over 400 anti-immigrant policies. Radiating impacts of criminalization, mass detention, family separation, and deportation continue to wreak havoc on immigrant communities, especially on Black and brown immigrants.

Stable funding of at least $10 million is vital for vital for New York State to build on the success of the Liberty Defense Project and continue to work to keep our friends, coworkers, communities, and families together.


Know Your Rights for Transgender Name Changes

On March 10 our LGBTQ Rights Project attorney, Lettie Dickerson, partnered with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) to deliver a free, virtual Know Your Rights training, Updating Your ID Documents: Transgender Name Change Process.

We’re following this up with a second webinar, Your ID Documents Revisited: What to do After a Name Change on Tuesday, March 30 at 6:00 pm – sign up here!


Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Webinars Available in Multiple Languages

We have made our Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) webinar available in five different languages – Spanish, Swahili, Arabic, Somali, and Nepali – and also presented in English with ASL interpretation. You can find links to all of the presentations here.


Legal Help Lines

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!

Our Unemployment and Paid Leave Legal Help Line is available every day from 9:00am-5:00pm, at 800-724-0490 ext. 5827. If you have questions about unemployment or paid leave, you can call the help line and attorneys will provide legal advice and counsel regarding unemployment benefits, paid leave, and job protections.


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