Policy Matters – March 2022

Eòghann Renfroe March 31, 2022


Welcome to the March edition of our newsletter, Policy Matters. In this edition we’ll cover the rapidly approaching end of budget season, an important settlement for students with disabilities in Rochester, crime victims advocacy trainings, and a last chance at free tax preparation help for folks in Rochester. You can read an archived version here.


Heading Towards the Budget Finish Line…

The hours and minutes are ticking down to the passage of the final budget bills, and we’re continuing our advocacy for numerous programs and proposals.

We were very pleased to see the funding for the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), which provides legal representation to New Yorkers facing foreclosure, in both the Senate and Assembly one house bills. We are also continuing to push strongly on our funding asks for both the Disability Advocacy Program (DAP), which helps New Yorkers through the federal disability appeals process, and the Consumer Health Advocates (CHA), which helps New Yorkers navigate health insurance, medical debt, and disability appeals.

We’re also continuing to push to Fund the Gap – to provide funding to plug a temporary gap in funding for crime victims legal services across the state. While the Executive provided $14.4 million in the 30-Day Amendments, a total of $25 million is needed to ensure that program services for victims of crime are not cut.

For years now we have advocated for a number of common-sense updates to public benefits programs to ensure that more folks can get the help they need when they need it.  The Executive and the Legislature have introduced a number of proposals that could address some of these perennial issues, including doing away with the 45-day waiting period for Safety Net Assistance, increasing the earnings disregard for New Yorkers without children, and putting in place a 12-month work exemption for parents and caregivers to those providing care for a child under one year of age.

We are also supporting the proposal for a transgender & nonbinary (TGNB) wellness fund, which would fund services and programs by and for the TGNB community in New York State.

We’ll have more to share on these, and other budget campaigns, once the State Budget is finalized.


Consent Decree Reached for Students With Disabilities

Empire Justice Center and Nixon Peabody announced earlier this month that a federal court has approved an Amended Consent Decree that further resolves claims in a lawsuit brought by a class of students with disabilities in the Rochester City School District and their families to secure the District’s compliance with special education laws. The Decree requires the School District to meet objective goals that demonstrate continual measurable progress in providing timely services, improving achievement and graduation rates, eliminating racial disparities in classification and suspension, and increasing involvement with parents of students with disabilities.

“This case has always been about students with disabilities and their families,” said Senior Attorney, Maggie Robb, in an article by WXXI. “We want them to know that we are here to help enforce their civil rights so they can achieve academic success and prepare for life beyond high school.”

You can learn more about this important case and the effects it will have on students with disabilities in this interview of Legal Director Jonathan Feldman, who also worked on the case, by David Lombardo on the Capitol Pressroom.


Crime Victims Advocacy Webinars

New York Crime Victims Legal Help will be hosting two noteworthy webinars in April to mark Crime Victims’ Rights Week:


Last Chance for Tax Help From CASH

WROC Channel 8 in Rochester did a story on our CASH program, highlighting the importance of professional tax help for low income families and individuals, and interviewed the Director of CASH, Yversha Roman.

“It’s super important to seek professional help and guidance. Right now we are still even looking for clients or individual community members who haven’t claimed their child tax credits because every year tax laws and credits change, it can become very confusing,” Roman said.

If you’re in the Rochester area you can schedule your appointment for free tax preparation today, including for 2018, 2019, or 2020 returns. Call 585-900-1004 or visit https://empirejustice.org/cash for more information.


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