For Immediate Release: April 11, 2022
Contact: Kristin Brown, President and CEO, email@example.com
2022 State Budget:
Good Budget for Many Programs Benefitting Low-Income New Yorkers; Must Do More for Immigrants
“This year’s budget process was demonstrably different than the previous fifteen, resulting in a number of key investments. I appreciate the Governor proactively including programs benefitting low-income New Yorkers, and the legislature’s steadfast support. In some issue areas where we saw progress, Empire Justice Center attorneys and staff have worked on them for a close to a decade. Increased funding for disability appeals advocacy, eviction and foreclosure prevention, and consumer health advocacy will meaningfully help more people receive the right kind of services they need. Going forward, we must focus on raising the cash grant for public benefits recipients, overhauling unfair unemployment overpayment rules, and be inclusive of all immigrant New Yorkers. I also want to extend my gratitude to Assembly Health Chair Dick Gottfried as he serves his last term this year. It was my privilege to have worked with one of the most devoted and knowledgeable legislators to advance so many important services for client communities across New York State,” said Kristin Brown, President and CEO of Empire Justice Center.
As a public interest law firm that advocates for low-income New Yorkers, Empire Justice Center worked hard with colleagues, legislators, and the Governor’s office on a number of budget proposals. Several programs and policy bills deserve special mention:
Funding Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP)
We are thankful to Governor Hochul for including $20 million for the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) in the initial budget for the first time, and for the Legislature for including additional funding of $15 million to meet the increased need for services. The historic increase in funding will help homeowners negotiate with their lenders and ultimately stay in their homes. We want to give special thanks to Senate and Assembly Housing Chairs, Brian Kavanagh and Steve Cymbrowitz, as well as Senate Finance Chair Liz Krueger and Assembly Ways & Means Chair Helene Weinstein, who have all been steadfast supporters. We are also especially pleased with the Governor’s stewardship in including the program in the initial budget.
Upstate and Long Island Eviction Defense
Eviction Defense funding of $35 million for services outside of New York City will provide a lifeline for renters in upstate and Long Island who are struggling to stay in their homes. As legal service providers, we work directly with tenants in need of representation, and worked to ensure an equitable distribution method. We are grateful for Senator Ryan’s leadership.
Timely Increases for Community Health Advocates (CHA) and the Disability Advocacy Program (DAP)
Community Health Advocates (CHA) will, for the first time, be able to provide services to all New Yorkers, including people who rely on Medicaid. We appreciate the increase in funding from the Governor and the Legislature, which will allow CHA to help every New Yorker save money on bills, navigate complicated insurance coverage, and handle appeals, during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed great health disparities and financial barriers across our communities. Thank you to the Governor, Assemblymember Gottfried, and Senator Gustavo Rivera, without whose support the program would be impossible.
The Disability Advocacy Program (DAP) provides representation for low-income New Yorkers who have been denied federal disability benefits, which is the sole source of income for many low-income families. Thanks to an additional $2.63 million proposed by Governor Hochul in the Executive budget, and a $1 million add-on from the Legislature, DAP will be funded at $12.52 million. This means DAP will be better able to tackle the backlog of Social Security claims caused by the long-term physical closure of Social Security offices, and rising claims beginning to be filed by New Yorkers who have become disabled due to Long COVID. We are very pleased that the Legislature and the Governor are recognizing the challenges faced by disabled and senior low-income New Yorkers. Thank you to Senate and Assembly Social Services Chairs, Roxanne Persaud and Linda Rosenthal, for pushing for this important funding.
And a special thank you to Assemblymember Dick Gottfried, who founded DAP in 1983 and has been a champion for the program for almost forty years. We will miss Assemblymember Gottfried’s expertise, advocacy and ardent support for programs benefiting the poorest New Yorkers.
We appreciate the Governor, Assemblymember Joyner and Senator Ryan for making New York more inclusive for immigrants. The budget codifies and expands prior executive orders requiring state agencies providing direct public services to translate vital documents into the 12 most common non-English languages in the state. In addition, agencies may offer four additional languages based on regional needs in New York state. This law means immigrants who speak Urdu and French, common languages for immigrants originally from Southeast Asia and African communities, will now have access to vital documents they understand, in addition to the ten languages that are already codified presently.
Expansion of the Gender Recognition Act
We were very pleased, along with other members of the Gender Recognition Act Coalition, including the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, Legal Services NYC, the NYCLU, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Legal Aid NYC, and Arrowood Law, to help shape provisions in the budget to create new X gender marker options for all state agencies, and to ensure that transgender, nonbinary, and intersex New Yorkers are able to update their marriage certificates. Thank you to Governor Hochul, Senator Krueger, and to central staff in the Senate and Assembly for working with us.
We are thrilled to finally see the elimination of the 185% of the standard of need test for very low-income New Yorkers who receive public benefits. This rule will result in a modest increase in the net amount of money very poor New Yorkers can receive each month. In most counties, “185% of the standard of need” is well below 70% of the Federal Poverty level. With other advocates, Empire Justice Center has advocated for this change for almost a decade, including in our testimony this year to the Human Services Budget Committee, and we are glad to see this change that means having food, gas, and shelter for the poorest New Yorkers. We now need to work on increasing the grant level for the next fiscal year. We appreciate the Governor and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal for their hard work on this issue.
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Empire Justice Center is a statewide, multi-issue, multi-strategy, public interest law firm focused on changing the “systems” within which poor and low-income families live. Empire Justice protects and strengthens the legal rights of people in New York State who are poor, disabled or disenfranchised through: systems change advocacy, training and support to other advocates and organizations, and high quality direct civil legal representation. Empire Justice has offices in Albany, Rochester, Yonkers, White Plains and Central Islip on Long Island.