Policy Matters – October 2021

Eòghann Renfroe October 27, 2021

Welcome to the October edition of our newsletter, Policy Matters. In this edition we cover the release of the Rochester Latinx Agenda, SNAP benefits for prepared meals, the Sanctions bill, our new crime victims guide, how to receive the child tax credit, an overview of domestic violence legislation passed in the last two years, and an award for a lifetime of consumer advocacy. You can also read an archived version here.


Rochester Latinx Agenda

The Rochester Latinx Agenda has been released, with a mission to provide data on the impacts of systemic racism on the Latinx experience in Rochester and provide actionable recommendations to mitigate inequities. Empire Justice staff members Marlene Cortes, Yversha Roman, and Luis Ormaechea were among 70 community members who contributed to the comprehensive report.

Marlene spoke to WXXI about the report and work that has been done on language access, saying “In the past, there was never a language access plan in the County Clerk’s Office. If someone went to the DMV, they were asked, ‘Oh, you need to come back with an interpreter?’ We got involved and said, ‘No, you need to provide an interpreter.’”

The report addresses issues related to housing, education, health, youth development, economic development, LGBTQI+ identities, language access, and many other forces that shape and affect the Latinx community in Rochester.


SNAP Benefits for Prepared Meals

Governor Hochul signed legislation on October 4th that will, once implemented by OTDA, allow SNAP recipients to purchase prepared foods with their SNAP benefits. This will be extremely helpful to many recipients, especially those who live in shelters and lack access to kitchens, and disabled recipients who may be unable to cook for themselves.

Implementation of this program is still to come – let’s make sure New York State does this right!


The Sanctions Bill Is Still Waiting for Signature

Another month has gone by without Governor Hochul’s signature of S.0668/A.3227 – the bill to reform the benefits sanctions process, for which we have been advocating for years. This long overdue bill would allow individuals in the rest of the state the same “second chance” in the sanctions process that public assistance recipients in New York City already receive.

A previous version of this bill was vetoed by former Governor Cuomo in 2019, so Governor Hochul’s signature could signal a new, less punitive approach to public assistance recipients from the Executive Chamber.


Other Empire Justice Work

  • NY Crime Victims Legal Help’s Victim Compensation Online Claim Application Guide and Navigator – If you are a victim of crime, you may have many costs related to the crime and your recovery. This can include medical and mental health care costs, lost income, and repairing or replacing damaged or lost property. Crime victim compensation may be able to help you with these financial matters. We developed the Victim Compensation Claim Navigator to help you determine if you are eligible for compensation and what type of claim you can apply for. We developed the Guide to help you submit the victim compensation claim online.
  • CASH Program & How To Receive The Child Tax CreditYversha Roman, Director of the CASH program, spoke on the Raising Rochester Podcast to discuss CASH, the recent temporary expansion of the child tax credit, and local efforts to ensure that all potential recipients of the child tax credit are able to receive it.
  • Domestic Violence Legislative Update – Amy Schwartz-Wallace, Senior Attorney, teamed up with the NYS Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the NYS Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NYSCADV) for this overview of the domestic violence-related legislation passed in 2020-2021. Updates include changes to equitable distribution, firearms search and seizure, domestic violence advocate privilege, technology-facilitated abuse, and more.


Lifetime Achievement

Congratulations to Senior Attorney Ruhi Maker on her lifetime achievement award from the Daily Record! Ruhi’s work on fair lending, access to credit, affordable housing and community reinvestment has positively impacted tens of thousands of low-income families across the state.

If you’d like to check out some of Ruhi’s work, try the report, Too Big to Fail… Too Poor to Bank: How Mainstream Financial Services Can Help Low-Income Working Families Succeed, or the essay, COVID-19 Disparities In Rochester, NY: The Legacy Of Redlining In The City Of Frederick Douglass And Susan B. Anthony, both co-authored with Barb Van Kerkhove.


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 on temporary hold as we work through a considerable backlog, but check back as we anticipate opening up again soon.


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