×
test

Maiffn Area

PRESS RELEASE: Federal Court Preliminarily Approves Settlement to Improve Access to Public Benefits for People with Disabilities in Suffolk County

Posted on August 9th, 2022

For Immediate Release: August 9, 2022

Empire Justice Center Contact: Linda Hassberg, lhassberg@empirejustice.org, 631-533-5272

NCLEJ Contact: Jordan Berger, berger@nclej.org, 646-680-8906, Saima Akhtar, akhtar@nclej.org, 646-558-6152

CLICK HERE for the notice in Spanish

CLICK HERE for Audio Recording of this Notice

Federal Court Preliminarily Approves Settlement to Improve Access to Public Benefits for People with Disabilities in Suffolk County

A federal district court judge in the Eastern District of New York has granted preliminary approval to a class action settlement reflecting the Suffolk County Department of Social Services (SCDSS) commitment to update and enhance its policies and procedures to ensure people with disabilities are able to access public benefits. The class action settlement resolves litigation brought against SCDSS in 2019 by Suffolk County residents with disabilities who could not access the reasonable accommodations they needed to participate in public benefit programs, such as Medicaid, SNAP (commonly known as Food Stamps), Temporary Assistance, and Temporary Housing Assistance. The plaintiffs in this lawsuit were represented by the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, Empire Justice Center, and Dentons US LLP.

The settlement agreement requires SCDSS to update its ADA policies and trainings, commits the agency to training all staff on the new ADA policies, modifies SCDSS’s computer system to track accommodation requests, clarifies the internal agency processes for promptly responding to accommodation requests including situations of immediate need, clarifies the right of an applicant or recipient to file a grievance if SCDSS denies a request for an accommodation, and affirms the rights of applicants and recipients with disabilities to request an accommodation verbally or in writing at any point in their dealings with the agency.

“This case is about ensuring that every eligible Suffolk County resident has a fair and equal opportunity to obtain critical and sustaining public assistance benefits” remarked Linda Hassberg, Senior Attorney, Empire Justice Center.

“The comprehensive nature of the settlement is a real victory for thousands of Suffolk County residents with disabilities” says Sandra Hauser, Partner, Dentons US LLP.

NCLEJ Skadden Fellow Jordan Berger: “The negotiated changes to Defendant’s policies and procedures will ensure access for Suffolk County residents with disabilities. Having a disability should never be a barrier to accessing critically needed benefits and services.”

On September 6, 2022 at 1:00PM EST a federal court in Central Islip will hold a fairness hearing to receive input about the proposed settlement in Newkirk v. Pierre. Class members have the right to attend the hearing by telephone or submit written comments in advance of the hearing to give input to the court reviewing the settlement agreement. To learn more about the settlement and whether you may be a class member, please read the Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action, Linked Here or the Proposed Settlement, Linked Here.

###

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.

 


PRESS RELEASE: Free summer tax prep is available through the CASH Program.

Posted on June 7th, 2022

For Immediate Release: June 7, 2022

Contact: Lacie White, CASH Marketing Communications Manager, lwhite@empirejustice.org

 

Free summer tax prep is available through the CASH Program.

Rochester, NY– On June 7th, CASH’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program will open for free summer tax preparation services. Monroe County residents who missed the chance to complete their 2019, 2020, or 2021 taxes can schedule an appointment with one of VITA’s IRS-certified volunteers. CASH is also looking for eligible families who have yet to claim the Advance Child Tax Credit. Most families are eligible for $3,000-$3,600 per child.

 

“The pandemic has made it difficult for many individuals to file their taxes on time, especially with changes to the Child Tax Credit and many other credits. CASH remains open to answer any tax questions you may have and we encourage community members to seek help from our professional tax preparers,” said CASH Director, Yversha Roman. “We know many in our community have not yet filed, our summer tax prep session is another opportunity to do so –for free.”

 

CASH (Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope) is a community coalition led by the Empire Justice Center. CASH offers free high-quality tax return preparation services that make tax filing easy to do and understand. In addition to providing year-round tax advice and preparation, CASH partners with over 40 organizations, to connect clients to community partners with resources that can improve their financial well-being. These services include savings programs, health care, financial literacy, public benefits, and job counseling.

 

VITA is accommodating clients by appointment only, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, June 7th – August 8th. To schedule an appointment, visit https://cashtaxprep2021.as.me/SummerTaxPrep. Visit the website at https://empirejustice.org/cash/  for more information on available services and to learn how to volunteer with CASH.

 

###

 

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. Learn more about CASH at empirejustice.org/cash. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


PRESS RELEASE: Jill Paperno Joins Empire Justice Center as New Civil Rights Practice Senior Litigator

Posted on May 12th, 2022

For Immediate Release: May 11, 2022

Contact: Kristin Brown, President and CEO, kbrown@empirejustice.org  515-852-5766

Jill Paperno Joins Empire Justice Center as New Civil Rights Practice Senior Litigator

 Rochester, NY– Empire Justice Center is pleased to announce the appointment of Jill Paperno as the new Senior Civil Rights Litigator in its civil rights practice. Prior to joining Empire Justice Center, Paperno served in various roles within the Monroe County Public Defenders’ office for over 35 years, most recently as the acting Monroe County Public Defender.

“I am thrilled to be joining Empire Justice Center,” said Paperno. “I am looking forward to working with the civil rights practice group and continuing to serve our clients and our community.”

A respected fixture in the Rochester community, Jill Paperno, brings her wealth of knowledge and advocacy experience within marginalized communities, and a client-centered approach to representation to the organization. In addition to her time with the Public Defenders’ office, Paperno has worked within the legal community to seek justice and promote antiracism through her involvement in the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys (GRAWA), The Monroe County Bar Association (MCBA), and the development of the Lawyers’ Coalition for Racial and Social Justice, a collaboration between GRAWA, MCBA, and the Rochester Black Bar association. When serving as President of the MCBA, Paperno collaborated with the Board to form the MCBA’s President’s Commission on Antiracism.

“Jill Paperno has dedicated her life and career to advocating for marginalized communities and challenging racial and social injustice in our systems and institutions, and I could not be more thrilled that she has chosen to bring her experience and dedication to the growing civil rights practice of the Empire Justice Center in Rochester,” said Erin E. Elmouji, Empire Justice Board Member and Civil Litigator at Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP.

Starting in the fall, Jill will be leading the expansion of Empire Justice Center’s civil rights work to include a focus on police reform and handling police misconduct cases. She will work alongside Empire Justice Center’s stellar civil rights team: Unit Director and Senior Attorney Maggie Robb, Senior Attorney Peter Dellinger, Senior Attorney Melinda Fithen, Senior Manager of Language Access Marlene Cortés, LGBTQ Rights Staff Attorney Lettie Dickerson, Staff Attorney Katie Blum, and Paralegal Heidi Griffith. Paperno’s trial experience and subject matter expertise will further develop Empire Justice Center’s civil rights work and response to the critical need to challenge unjust police practices in Rochester and in New York State. Under her guidance, Empire Justice Center is exploring the addition of criminal justice to the scope of its civil rights work, which currently includes class action litigation, individual representation, and policy advocacy for New Yorkers experiencing discrimination in education, employment, housing, and places of public accommodation, as well as those needing language access and LGBTQ rights advocacy.

“I am thrilled. Jill will bring passion and deep expertise to round out Empire Justice Center’s civil rights practice. Her addition to the organization will strengthen the efforts of our mission to make the law work for all New Yorkers,” said Kristin Brown, President and CEO of Empire Justice Center.

###

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.


PRESS RELEASE: Advocates Applaude FHFA’s Move to Require Mortgage Lenders to Obtain Applicants’ Language Preference

Posted on May 4th, 2022


PRESS RELEASE: $2 million in Federal and State Tax Returns claimed by Rochester residents through the CASH program

Posted on February 16th, 2022

For Immediate Release: February 16, 2022

Contact: Lacie White, CASH Marketing Communications Manager, lwhite@empirejustice.org

 

$2 million in Federal and State Tax Returns

claimed by Rochester residents through the CASH program

Free tax-prep service available for low-income Rochester residents

 

 

Rochester, NY– Since opening on January 24th, families in the Rochester community have claimed over $2 million in Federal and State Tax Refunds through the CASH program. CASH is open for in-person and virtual tax preparation services with the help of over 80 volunteers, interns, and staff members who have contributed over 2000 hours and prepared over 500 returns in the first three weeks of opening.

 

“Just three weeks into the tax season it has been remarkable to watch our staff and volunteers work alongside our clients to connect them to the tax credits they have earned while saving them over $175,000 in processing fees,” said CASH Director, Yversha Roman. “As we know, every dollar back into the hands of our families equates to more secure housing, food on the table, and overall financial health.”

 

CASH (Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope) is a community coalition led by the Empire Justice Center.  CASH partners with over 40 organizations, including United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes, to offer free high-quality tax return preparation services that make tax filing easy to do and understand. These services ensure that Monroe County residents collect all the tax credits for which they are eligible, including the Advanced Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. In addition to providing year-round tax advice and preparation, CASH connects clients to community partners with resources that can improve their financial well-being. These services include savings programs, health care, financial literacy, public benefits, and job counseling.

 

“We are proud to be able to support CASH and help directly combat some of the challenges of poverty we face as a region,” said Jaime Saunders, President, and CEO of United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes. “Thank you to the hundreds of dedicated volunteers working at the C.A.S.H. sites, and to our donors who help to make these tax preparation and financial security programs possible, so working families get the money they deserve in tax returns and Earned Income Tax Credits.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, CASH is accommodating clients by appointment only. To schedule an appointment call 585-900-1004 or visit https://cashtaxprep2021.as.me/TaxPrep. Visit the website at https://empirejustice.org/cash/  for more information on available services and to learn more about how to volunteer with CASH.

 

###

 

 

 

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. Learn more about CASH at empirejustice.org/cash. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

 

 

 

 


PRESS RELEASE: Empire Justice Receives $25,000 from Anonymous Donor to Help Families Who Don’t Qualify for State and Federal Aid Stay in their Homes

Posted on March 24th, 2021

Empire Justice Receives $25,000 from Anonymous Donor to Help Families Who Don’t Qualify for State and Federal Aid Stay in their Homes

Rochester, NY – An anonymous donor has contributed $25,000 to Empire Justice Center to ensure that homeowners and renters who have been affected financially by the Covid-19 pandemic do not become homeless.

While New York State had an eviction moratorium through February 27th, in many cases landlords are now once again able to move forward with eviction actions. Some tenants will qualify for rental relief through government programs, but that is not true in every situation.

Far too often, it is the most vulnerable members of our community who do not qualify such as families from immigrant and refugee communities.

“People are suffering due to the pandemic and risk being homeless because of their inability to pay their mortgage or rent,” the anonymous donor said. “I felt compelled to help and sought out an organization that had expertise and that I could trust with my donation. That organization is Empire Justice Center, and I know they will ensure this donation has a meaningful impact on our community.” The donor also expressed the hope that this donation would act as “seed money” to encourage others to donate in whatever amount they can.

Empire Justice will use the generous donation to financially assist families in Monroe County who are at risk of being evicted due to their inability to pay rent, focusing on those who do not qualify for other programs. Renters will be identified through the hotline of the Tenant Defense Project, a new collaboration between the four legal services agencies that co-locate in the Telesca Center for Justice. The Tenant Defense Project is an innovative pilot program that guarantees a right to counsel for low-income renters facing eviction; it is the first program of its kind in New York (outside of New York City) and is being looked at as a model in other parts of the state.

Families who call the Tenant Defense hotline who are not eligible for state or federal rental relief or who are ineligible for assistance through the Project, will be referred to Empire Justice for consideration for rental assistance.

“The pandemic has pushed so many families to the brink of homelessness. Government resources are available to help, but those who do not qualify are left behind. This donation is particularly meaningful because it focuses on those families who do not otherwise qualify for assistance primarily due to their immigrant or refugee status,” said Kristin Brown Empire Justice Center President and CEO. “We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of our donor.”

Families in Monroe County who are at risk of eviction can call the Tenant Defense Hotline at (585) 504-6195.

###


PRESS RELEASE: Empire Justice Is In Solidarity With Black and Brown Communities

Posted on June 3rd, 2020

The Empire Justice Center is in solidarity with Black and Brown communities across New York and the United States during this time of collective rage and mourning.  The murders of George Floyd, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Malik Williams, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin and countless other Black people are emblematic of structural racism in the United States that has never been honestly addressed.  We must immediately end these violent race-based killings, address societal racism, and the legacy of slavery.

As a statewide legal services and advocacy organization for marginalized and low-income communities, our mission is to make the law work for all New Yorkers. We say that the time for systemic change is long past due.  Fifty-six years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, people of color continue to be subjected to discrimination, bigotry, and marginalization. New York State officials must act now to pass laws that can halt police misconduct and racial profiling, end solitary confinement, seek alternatives to incarceration, and reduce the size, funding, and militarization of police force.  In the longer term, we must address the underlying inequities by providing all people with meaningful access to healthcare, education, and housing.

We are also committed to examining our own work and actions.  The events of the last week make it patently clear that as an organization, Empire Justice Center must remain effective by being rooted in the communities we represent and the needs of our employees.   We are committed to increasing transparency, communication, equity and inclusion in all of our policies and practices.

Empire Justice is a leading statewide nonprofit law firm and policy advocacy organization working to make the law work for All New Yorkers, especially those who need its protection the most. Empire Justice employs over 60 attorneys, paralegals and administrative professional staff who provide a blend of training, legal assistance and policy advocacy from its five offices in Rochester, Albany, Yonkers, White Plains and Central Islip.

# # #


PRESS RELEASE: Kristin Brown Announces New Leadership Team at Empire Justice Center

Posted on May 14th, 2020

Kristin Brown Announces New Leadership Team at Empire Justice Center

“I am honored to work with this talented and diverse group of leaders.  During the pandemic, delivering services and advocating for marginalized New Yorkers is more important than ever.  With their advice and support, we will be stronger in leading Empire Justice Center in our mission to make the law work for all New Yorkers. Along with current members of the Leadership Team including Maria DeGennaro, Kristi Hughes, and Maggie Robb I am pleased to welcome our new team members.”

Stanley Byrd is the Vice President for Diversity, Inclusion and Human Resources. In this role, Stanley provides strategic and operational leadership for diversity, equity and inclusion and provides human resources leadership and guidance.  Prior to joining Empire Justice Center,  Stanley was the Human Resource Director at the University of Rochester.   For more than 25 years, Stanley has been associated with the National Coalition Building Institute, an international leadership organization that provides training in diversity, equity, and inclusion in community organizations, K-12 schools, college and university campuses, corporations and law enforcement.  He currently serves as the Vice President for Membership for the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources.  Stanley is a graduate of Saint John Fisher College from which he earned a doctorate degree in Executive Leadership.

Jonathan Feldman is returning to Empire Justice Center as its Legal Director where he oversees impact litigation and all practice groups.  Most recently, he taught full-time at Cornell Law School.   From 1997 to 2018, Jonathan was a Senior Attorney at Empire Justice Center.   Earlier in his career, he worked for the Community Service Society in New York City and the Education Law Center in Newark, NJ, where he helped to litigate the landmark school finance case, Abbott v. Burke.  He has published in the fields of disability rights, civil rights, and educational equity, and is currently revising a leading education law textbook (Education Law, 6th Edition, forthcoming 2020).  A graduate of Oberlin College and New York University School of Law, he clerked for a federal district judge in Philadelphia before pursuing public interest law.

Eden Forsythe is the Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs. She oversees Empire Justice’s policy efforts for systemic change and access to justice for marginalized communities in New York state.  She served as the Senior Counsel for Congressman Sander Levin  where she oversaw a wide range of policy issues affecting civil liberties and the root causes of inequality, including criminal justice reform, discrimination, immigration, housing, and consumer protection.  From 2018 to 2019, she led Civil Justice, a Maryland legal services organization for low-wage earners.  Eden began her career as a deputy district attorney in California.  She holds B.A. and J.D. degrees from the University of the Pacific, and was the 2009 Yale-in-China Teaching Law Fellow.  Eden was the 2016 Rising Star and nominated to be Best under 40 by her peers in the D.C. Chapter of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

Berta Rivera is the Director of Creating Assets, Savings & Hope (CASH*), a community coalition led by Empire Justice and the United Way of Greater Rochester. As Director, she is responsible for the overall management and operations of CASH including strategic planning and budgeting; fund development; volunteer training and development; Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site operations; financial literacy and asset-building initiatives, and community outreach.  Before becoming CASH Director, she worked as the Assistant Director from 2012 to 2014, and the Outreach and Volunteer Manager from 2009 to 2012. Earlier in her career, she was a paralegal working in the Foreclosure Prevention program of Empire Justice Center. Ms. Rivera grew up in the City of Rochester and is bilingual. She provides interpreting services for Hispanic families in a variety of settings, including budget and foreclosure counseling, and tax preparation.  Berta holds a Bachelors of Applied Sciences from the Rochester Institute of Technology, and was awarded the RIT Distinguished Alumni Award for her work with CASH and the community.

Amy Schwartz-Wallace is the Unit Director for Crime Victims and Domestic Violence, Benefits and Disability Advocacy Program.  Prior to assuming the role of Unit Director, Amy was the Senior Attorney with the Empire Justice Center in Rochester where she has overseen its statewide domestic violence practice for over 15 years.  She routinely provides legal training and technical assistance to attorneys, domestic violence programs, courts, and other agencies and organizations statewide. In addition to the many legal issues intersecting with intimate partner violence status, for over a decade Amy has overseen several training and technical assistance grants addressing LGBT rights and family violence.  Amy also engages in policy analysis and legislative advocacy, and her advocacy in these arenas has directly resulted in many domestic violence and LGBT-related law and policy changes on local, state, and national levels.  She has successfully represented clients in several cutting-edge impact litigation cases, most notably the 3rd Department’s 2010 & 2011 decisions in Dickerson v. Thompson which provided civil union spouses with access to the New York Supreme Court for legal dissolution of their out-of-state civil unions.  In 2018, she was the recipient of the Excellence in the Law: Top Women in Law Award, and the 2015 Ally Windsor Howell Champion of Diversity Award from the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys.

 

Empire Justice is a leading statewide nonprofit law firm and policy advocacy organization working to make the law work for All New Yorkers, especially those who need its protection the most. Empire Justice employs over 60 attorneys, paralegals and administrative professional staff who provide a blend of training, legal assistance and policy advocacy from its five offices in Rochester, Albany, Yonkers, White Plains and Central Islip.

# # #


PRESS RELEASE: New Legal Help Line Available to Those Seeking Unemployment and Paid Family Leave Benefits

Posted on April 29th, 2020

Empire Justice Center Offering Legal Advice and Services Relating to Unemployment Benefits and Paid Family Leave        

Civil Legal Services Law Firm Launching Unemployment and Paid Leave Legal Help Line

April 29, 2020 – As unemployment claims skyrocket due to the job losses caused by coronavirus, more New Yorkers will need access to critical unemployment assistance to help pay their rent and keep food on the table during this crisis. Empire Justice Center is meeting this need.

Today, thanks to funding received through the Rochester Area Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Rochester’s Community Crisis Fund, Empire Justice is announcing the launch of the Unemployment and Paid Leave Legal Help Line. 

People in New York who have lost their job or who are seeking Emergency Paid Sick and Family and Medical Leave in response to the covid-19 crisis can now call (800) 724-0490 ext. 5827 to be connected with an attorney.  Attorneys will provide legal advice and counsel regarding the New York State Unemployment Insurance program, which has been recently modified and dramatically expanded to help people who are unable to work or who lost their jobs as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.  Attorneys will also provide legal help regarding new laws enacted by the federal and NY state governments to provide additional paid leave and job protections to New Yorkers.

“Our goal is to be able to answer questions about the new Pandemic Employment Assistance program and the new federal and paid leave programs for low income working families and individuals.  We will also seek to assist unemployed workers in obtaining expanded unemployment benefits. The needs are real and unprecedented: Since mid-March, over 1.5 million New Yorkers have applied for unemployment insurance,” said Peter Dellinger, Senior Attorney.

“We are so grateful for the leadership of the Rochester Area Community Foundation and hte United Way of Greater Rochester in galvanizing support for the Community Crisis Fund to meet the immediate needs of organizations that serve low-income and vulnerable residents,” stated Kristin Brown, President and CEO.  “Because of this funding, we are able to shift our resources to quickly respond to the emerging civil legal needs that are a result of the coronavirus crisis,”

For additional resources and FAQs regarding legal issues impacting low-income families as a result of this crisis, please visit https://empirejustice.org/covid-19-resources/

Empire Justice is a leading statewide nonprofit law firm and policy advocacy organization working to make the law work for All New Yorkers, especially those who need its protection the most. Empire Justice employs over 60 attorneys, paralegals and administrative professional staff who provide a blend of training, legal assistance and policy advocacy from its five offices in Rochester, Albany, Yonkers, White Plains and Central Islip.

# # #


STATEMENT – 2020 NYS Budget

Posted on April 3rd, 2020

2020 State Budget:
A Call for Leaders to Commit to Marginalized Communities Through Thick and Thin   


For Immediate Release:
April 3, 2020

Contact: 518 935 2843

 

“The enacted budget shows the Legislature and the Governor’s joint pledge in funding essential services for marginalized communities during an extraordinarily difficult year.  It is clear that social and health services will be stretched to the breaking point in the months ahead as we deal with the fallout of the pandemic.  That is why I am calling on New York state leaders to commit, through thick and thin, to support essential services that help people receive public benefits, cope with foreclosure, illness, and debts. It is imperative that New York not allow the cost of the pandemic to be borne on the shoulders of marginalized communities.” said Kristin Brown, President and CEO of Empire Justice Center.

 

Disability Advocacy

The Disability Advocacy Program (DAP) received level funding in the enacted budget. 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. This funding will allow continued representation for low-income people during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are grateful to Assemblymembers Gottfried, Hevesi, Gunther, and Steck, and Senators Persaud and Kruger, for championing the program.

 

Foreclosure Protection

The Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) received level funding in the enacted budget. We commend the Governor and the legislature, especially Housing Chairs Cymbrowitz, Kavanagh, Judiciary Chairs Dinowitz and Hoylman, Finance and Ways and Means Chairs Krueger and Weinstein, Leaders Peoples-Stokes, Stewart-Cousins, Senator Myrie, and Speaker Heastie for championing the statewide program that serves as the first line of defense for homeowners facing foreclosures. HOPP has served over 100,000 people and achieve loan modifications for over 25 percent of homeowners in all 62 counties since 2012. This funding will allow continued services to homeowners, especially those experiencing financial distress due to COVID-19.

 

Health Care

New Yorkers need more clarity than ever when it comes to navigating the health care system. That’s why we are pleased that the Consumer Health Advocates (CHA) received level funding in the enacted budget, which is the same amount of funding appropriated in 2019. We thank Chairs Gottfried and Rivera for championing the program. CHA helps New Yorkers navigate health insurance programs, address denials and appeals for medical procedures, and cope with medical debts. This program will be especially critical for people who have or will fall ill during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, we are deeply troubled by the enacted Medicaid cuts that will harm low-income people and people with disabilities.  These cuts will also disproportionally affect safety-net providers that serve vulnerable populations.  Collectively, these changes unjustly affect marginalized communities.

 

Immigration Legal Services

Immigrant New Yorkers are among those who have been at the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, often risking exposure and deportation in order to take care of loved ones and work in essential jobs.  Against the federal landscape, the need for legal representation for immigrants facing unlawful detention, removal, and who are victims of trafficking can often be, now more than ever, a matter a life and death. We are heartened that immigration legal services received level funding in the enacted budget, allowing advocates to continue representing clients who are often the backbone of their families and communities.  We appreciate Leader Stewart-Cousins and the Governor’s efforts in leading the state and nation on immigration matters.

 

Civil Legal Services 

In hard times, it is especially important that civil legal services remain in place to help low-income New Yorkers gain access to housing, public benefits, and fight against discrimination.  We appreciate Chairs Hoylman, Dinowitz, Weinstein and the Governor for keeping the fund stable for low-income New Yorkers.

 

Preventing Unjust Outcome for People Who Receive Safety Net Assistance

Families who may receive a one-time federal stimulus check should not be be forced off of New York State Safety Net Assistance, unlike all other public assistance recipients who were protected under the federal CARES Act. Empire Justice Benefits Team appreciates the Legislature for proactively working with stakeholders in preventing the problem for very low-income New Yorkers.

 

# # #

 

To find out more about Empire Justice Center, visit our website, www.empirejustice.org. To learn more about our policy and legislative advocacy, sign up for our monthly newsletter, Policy Matters.