×
test

Maiffn Area

Policy Matters – September 2022

Posted on September 30th, 2022

Welcome to the September edition of our newsletter, Policy Matters. In this edition we cover our annual testimony on the importance of civil legal services, a final push for new tenant protections, our work to modernize the Community Reinvestment Act, advocacy for limited English proficiency SNAP recipients, recommendations for uniform standards of eligibility in family courts, a collection of recent legal education efforts, recognition of excellence in advocacy for several staff members, and last but not least – an invitation to our next Celebration of Leadership event in Albany! You can read an archived version here.

 

Chief Judge’s 2022 Hearing on Civil Legal Services in New York

On September 19th our President & CEO, Kristin Brown and Health Attorney, Alexia Mickles, testified at this year’s Chief Judge’s Hearing on Civil Legal Services in New York, along with our former client, Jenna McCormack, who shared her experience being represented by Empire Justice Center.

Ms. McCormack is studying for a degree in social work and loves working with children with disabilities. She also experiences disabling chronic illnesses, including a condition called occipital neuralgia – an inflammation of the nerves at the back of the head that causes near-constant pain. At one point this condition became so severe she could not work or go to school for over two years because she was mostly bedbound.

When her health insurance denied the procedures her doctor had ordered to address her pain, Ms. McCormack tried to represent herself through her first fair hearing, which she lost at an administrative fair hearing. Then Empire Justice Health attorneys Alexia and Fiona Wolfe represented Ms. McCormack through her second hearing. With the help from our attorneys, Ms. McCormack was able to win her appeal and, nine months ago, finally undergo the radiofrequency ablation ordered by her doctor, which has drastically reduced her pain and allowed her to focus on her health, studies, and even a part-time job working at a daycare.

In 2021, over 150,000 fair hearings were requested at OTDA alone, and the vast majority of these New Yorkers are unrepresented, just as Ms. McCormack was during her first hearing. Her experience underlines how important and life-changing civil legal representation can be.

 

Pushing New Tenant Protections Closer To The Finish Line

Senior Attorney Kirsten Keefe joined Senator Neil Breslin, Assemblymember John McDonald, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, and others for a press conference on August 23 to highlight recently passed bills that would help cement the rights of tenants in New York State and in Albany County.

We will continue to push for Governor Hochul to sign these measures into law.

 

Modernizing the Community Reinvestment Act

For the first time in 27 years, there may be extensive changes coming to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) under a proposed rule to modernize the law.

Under the CRA a bank is obligated to meet the credit needs of its entire community, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Even though the CRA was passed in 1977 to address redlining, it says nothing about race or ethnicity; persistent and wide-ranging racial disparities in lending, income, and wealth remain to this day.

Consumer Policy Analyst, Barb Van Kerkhove, and Senior Attorney, Ruhi Maker, worked with the rest of the Greater Rochester Community Reinvestment Coalition (GRCRC) to write and submit comments on the proposed rule change on August 4th, asking that the final rule consider bank activity by race and ethnicity, among other recommendations, to help address these long-running disparities.

 

Better Data Collection For SNAP Recipients With Limited English Proficiency

To ensure that people with limited English proficiency (LEP) have meaningful access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), language assistance must be provided at a time and place that avoids the effective denial of benefits or imposes an undue burden on or delay in access to benefits.

Senior Benefits Attorney Jessica Radbord submitted comments to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on August 19th, pushing for stronger data collection of LEP SNAP recipients to ensure meaningful access.

 

Uniform Standards of Eligibility in Family Court

Senior Staff Attorney Laura Dwyer submitted comments on a proposed rule to develop uniform standards of eligibility for assigned counsel in family court proceedings to the Office of Court Administration (OCA) on August 3rd. Our thorough recommendations include:

As well as a number of other clarifications and language access provisions.

 

We Teach The Law

The summer and early fall have been a busy season for our training and technical assistance efforts:

 

Recognition of Excellence in Advocacy

We were delighted that Marlene Cortés, our Senior Manager of Language Justice Program, was a nominee for the Annual Colors of Success DEI Award, presented by Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce! Marlene is one of 27 local changemakers who demonstrated exemplary leadership in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the greater Rochester community and was among those honored on Friday, September 16.

We are also excited to announce that Lettie Dickerson, our LGBTQ Rights attorney, has been appointed to the Richard C. Failla LGBTQ Commission of NY Courts to further its mission to raise awareness about LGBTQ issues and to foster a more supportive environment in NYS courts.

 

A Celebration of Leadership

It’s back! Our annual Celebration of Leadership fundraising event will be held on Thursday, November 17, from 5:30-8:30 at the Cornerstone at the Plaza in Albany. Our leadership awards will be presented to:

Don’t forget to get your tickets or sponsor the event!

 

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

 

 

 

 


Disability Law News – July 2022

Posted on July 31st, 2022

The Disability Law News is a quarterly newsletter published for DAP Advocates. In this issue, we give tribute to Kate Callery and her 35 years of supporting DAP advocates statewide as she recently announced her retirement.  We wish Kate the very happiest of retirements and extend our gratitude to her for her immeasurable contributions and friendship.  This issue features several new Regulations, Court Decisions and recent Studies & Reports on treatment of critical cases, the decline in kids’ SSI claims, and the collection of medical evidence.

 

 


Policy Matters – June 2022

Posted on June 30th, 2022

Welcome to the June edition of our newsletter, Policy Matters. In this edition we wrap up the legislative session with bills on pandemic assistance, protecting medical patients from health provider liens and garnishments, and establishing a wellness and equity fund to support transgender New Yorkers; testimony on the future of NYS courts, legal analysis of possible new tenant protections, comments on community reinvestment in Rochester, a presentation on legal tools to help reduce gun violence, and our participation in National Give Out Day – don’t forget to support our work on LGBTQ rights! You can read an archived version of the newsletter here.

 

2022 Session Wrap-up

The legislative session ended with a number of bills left unfinished. The bill to waive pandemic unemployment assistance repayments under certain circumstances (S.6244-B/A.7511) passed the Senate but didn’t make it to the floor in the Assembly. This bill would help many New Yorkers who received payments through no fault on their part, so they do not have to pay for mistakes made by the Department of Labor, especially since  these payments have already been used to pay for rent, groceries, and other necessities.

However, we are happy to say that the end of session did bring another victory for poor New Yorkers – Protecting Patients from Health Provider Liens & Garnishments (A.7363/S.6522) passed both houses and is waiting to be sent to the Governor for signature. This bill would stop health providers from being allowed to place liens on patients’ homes or garnish their wages.

And this past Sunday came another victory for transgender New Yorkers as Governor Hochul signed the bill establishing the Lorena Borjas Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund (A.9418/S.8884). This fund will support organizations that provide critical services for the transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary and intersex (TGNCNBI) community, and is named for noted transgender activist Lorena Borjas, who sadly passed from COVID-19 in 2020. Lorena dedicated her life to supporting transgender immigrants, many of whom fled transphobic oppression in their home countries. We are happy to have been a part of making this fund a reality.

 

Looking to the Future of NYS Courts

Our President & CEO, Kristin Brown, presented testimony to the Commission to Reimagine the Future of New York’s Courts on June 7th. This testimony was brought together expertise from across our organization, and focused on three key issue areas for the courts to address:

 

Legal Analysis – Tenant Dignity and Safe Housing Act

Our Senior Housing Attorney, Michael Furlano, wrote a legal analysis of the recently passed Tenant Dignity and Safe Housing Act, and the ways this act, if signed by Governor Hochul, would provide a clear right of action for tenants to compel repairs and to seek monetary relief for living with hazardous and unsafe conditions – all without risking eviction.

 

Comments on Five Star Bank’s Rochester Reinvestment Performance

The Greater Rochester Community Reinvestment Coalition (GRCRC), which Empire Justice Center convenes, recently commented on Five Star Bank’s performance in reinvesting in the Rochester community. The comments focus on three areas:

Barb Van Kerkhove, our Consumer Policy Analyst, also attended the National Community Reinvestment Coalition Conference – the first since 2019!

 

Legal Tools to Reduce the Risk of Gun Violence

In the wake of the terrible mass shooting in Buffalo on May 14, legal services providers have been looking for ways to use their skills to help reduce the risk of gun violence. Our Senior DV Attorney, Amy Schwartz-Wallace, and Project Leader of the Crime Victims Legal Network, Remla Parthasarathy, teamed up with the Minority Bar Association of WNY and the Bar Association of Erie County to create and present a CLE on New York’s Red Flag Law: What Attorneys Need to Know to File an Application (Extreme Risk Protection Order).

The Red Flag Law, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order Law, prevents individuals who are at risk of hurting themselves or others from purchasing or possessing firearms, rifles, or shotguns. This law, which went into effect in August 2019, can be an important tool in preventing domestic violence homicides, suicides, and situations of mass violence, but many practitioners still don’t know about Emergency Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) and how to obtain this civil protection order. Please note: We are still reviewing the recent SCOTUS decision on concealed carry weapons, but at this time we do not think it will affect the Red Flag law or its recent amendments.

 

National Give Out Day

And lastly, today is National Give Out Day – a national day of giving for organizations that provide services to the LGBTQ+ community. Please consider giving to our LGBTQ Rights Project, which advocates for the queer and transgender community by engaging in systems change, providing legal training and technical assistance, and providing direct representation and legal counsel to individual community members.

 

Thank You For Reading

Policy Matters will be taking a break for the summer, but we’ll be back in September. In the meantime, 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

 

 

 

 


Policy Matters – May 2022

Posted on May 31st, 2022

Welcome to the May edition of our newsletter, Policy Matters. In this edition we take a moment to observe the tragedy in Buffalo, and then we cover new language access mandates for mortgage lenders, the enactment of X gender markers on NYS drivers licenses, legal advocacy for trans youth, comments on proposed rules regarding Alternative Dispute Resolution, upcoming testimony on the future of NYS courts, and an exciting new addition to the Empire Justice team!

 

Statement on Massacre in Buffalo, NY

Words are inadequate to express the grief and shock we feel for the massacre in Tops Supermarket in Buffalo. We must call what happened for what it was: an act of white supremacy and domestic terrorism. We demand action from those in power to deliver on the promise of a more equitable society. We recommit to our client communities in Western New York and pledge to do our part in chipping away at structural inequities and racism. Lastly, our hearts are with the families and loved ones of people senselessly killed and hurt in the Saturday, May 14 massacre.

 

Federal Language Access Mandates for Mortgage Lenders

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) will now mandate lenders to obtain applicant’s preferred language during the mortgage application process. This will create a safer, more inclusive mortgage process for borrowers nationwide.

Senior Manager of our Language Access Program, Marlene Cortés, who leads our Monroe county and national consumer finance language access work, said in our joint statement, “We welcome the efforts of both FHFA and the CFPB to promote financial inclusion. These changes mean more people can understand the process and have the opportunity to own a home.”

 

X Gender Markers for Driver’s Licenses

Just weeks from the one year anniversary of the passage of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), X gender markers for drivers licenses are now officially available to all New Yorkers. While the rest of the provisions of the GRA were enacted at the end of last year, enactment of X driver’s licenses was not mandated to be complete until a year after the bill was signed into law.

Governor Hochul marked the occasion with an event with advocates on May 27. Several advocates with whom we worked closely on the bill were among the first to receive their new licenses – congratulations folks! A big thank you to the Governor and to the staff who worked closely with the Gender Recognition Act coalition to expand the act in this year’s budget.

 

Legal Advocacy for Trans & Gender Diverse Youth

Senior Attorney Amy Schwartz-Wallace and LGBTQ Rights Attorney Lettie Dickerson worked with several other advocates to present a continuing legal education (CLE) training, Trans-Affirming Legal Advocacy For Transgender & Gender Diverse Youth, on May 11.

 

Comments on Alternative Dispute Resolution

We submitted comments developed by Senior Attorney Amy Schwartz-Wallace on a proposed rule from the Office of Court Administration (OCA) regarding the expansion of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) by the referral of civil disputes in trial courts.

While we agree that access to ADR can be a wonderful tool for avoiding acrimonious and expensive litigation, narrowing issues actually in dispute, or facilitating settlement, and it can benefit the courts by lightening already over-burdened dockets, that must be balanced with the power dynamics that can undercut access to justice, especially when there is no right to counsel. We made a number of recommendations to improve this proposal and maintain focus on access to justice for all New Yorkers, including:

Many of our recommendations are also in the 2020 Report from the Special Advisor on Equal Justice in the New York State Courts (aka the Jeh Johnson Report) that the court is actively implementing. They are all intended to address and help mitigate systemic bias around race and other identities. Therefore, as virtually all civil cases would have the potential to be shunted to ADR now, it is critical that these efforts around DEI are not diluted or lost in the scaling up.

 

Reimagining the Future of New York’s Courts

We will be offering live testimony at a hearing on pandemic practices held by the Commission to Reimagine the Future of New York’s Courts on June 7. Empire Justice has noted in previous statements that virtual access to the courts may provide convenience for many, but exclusion for others due to the digital divide. In this testimony, we plan to highlight the following:

If you miss the hearing live, don’t worry, we’ll be including our testimony in next month’s edition of Policy Matters.

 

Former Public Defender Jill Paperno Joins Empire Justice’s Civil Rights Practice

We are very pleased to announce the appointment of Jill Paperno as the new Senior Civil Rights Litigator in our 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.

A respected fixture in the Rochester community, Jill will bring us her wealth of knowledge and advocacy experience within marginalized communities as well as a client-centered approach to representation. 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. Read more about Jill joining Empire Justice in our statement.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 


Disability Law News – April 2022

Posted on May 2nd, 2022

The Disability Law News is a quarterly newsletter published for DAP Advocates. In this issue, Social Security Administration’s office reopened in April and we continue to monitor complications and provide contacts to report problems accessing local field offices and telephone issues. In the case of Puerto Rico’s exclusion from SSI, The Supreme Court has issued it’s decision in U.S. v. Vaello-Madero. We take a look at the decision and give our analysis. Also in this issue are new regulations and several new court decisions.

 


Policy Matters – April 2022

Posted on April 29th, 2022

Welcome to the April edition of our newsletter, Policy Matters. In this edition we cover the end of welfare mortgages in New York State, a final 2022 budget wrap-up, working to end abusive auto industry practices, and a training on coordinating HIV health benefits for people who are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare. You can read an archived version of the newsletter here.

 

New Era For Low Income Homeowners

Regular followers of Policy Matters will remember that last year we achieved a long sought after victory by ending the practice of requiring homeowners to give a mortgage on their homes in exchange for receiving welfare benefits. New York was the last state in the nation to end this practice, which perpetuated a cycle of poverty and prevented very low-income people from achieving economic stability and security for decades.

This budget we completed this victory by wiping all existing welfare mortgages off the books for good.

The regulations were released by OTDA last week, reading in part, “Effective April 9, 2022, districts must not recover any TA real property and/or mortgage liens that were previously accepted and have not yet been satisfied.” We’re immensely proud of the work done on this issue over the past decade by Senior Attorney Susan Antos, Benefits Attorney Jessica Radbord, Senior Attorney Kirsten Keefe, CEO & President Kristin Brown, as well as Empire Justice alums Tamara Frazier, Saima Akhtar, Gary Grasso, Evan Baer, and everyone who contributed to ending this practice.

 

2022 Budget Wrap-up

Ending welfare mortgages was not our only budget victory. Our other funding and policy campaigns were very successful:

You can read more about all of these victories, as well as the budget overall, in our press statement: 2022 State Budget – Good Budget for Many Programs Benefitting Low-Income New Yorkers; Must Do More for Immigrants.

 

Pushing to End Abusive Auto Industry Practices

Senior Attorney Ruhi Maker took part in a New York/Connecticut roundtable discussion on abusive auto industry practices, and what can be done about them, with a collection of economists, advocates, and state representatives, including Yale’s Ian Ayres, Consumer Reports’ Chuck Bell, and Reps. Christopher Rosario and Quentin Williams.

 

HIV & Dual Eligible Benefits

Senior Health Attorney Fiona Wolfe and Health Attorney Alexia Mickles delivered a training on how to coordinate benefits for individuals living with HIV who are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare on April 12. The webinar was designed for health or social services providers and legal advocates who work with or advocate for people with HIV/AIDs.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 


Policy Matters – March 2022

Posted on March 31st, 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

 

 

 

 


Policy Matters – February 2022

Posted on February 28th, 2022

Welcome to the February edition of our newsletter, Policy Matters. In this edition we cover progress in plugging the funding gap for Crime Victims Services, our Housing and Human Services budget testimony, rallies to support health care coverage for all, and a push for equitable credit reporting for trans and nonbinary folks. You can read an archived version of the newsletter here.

 

Promising Progress for Crime Victims Services Funding

The budget process carries on, as the 30-Day Amendments have come and we now await the release of the One House Budgets sometime next month.

For legal services programs across the state, the 30-Day Amendments brought some measure of relief regarding the looming $26 million gap in funding for Crime Victims Services – an amendment to include $14.4 million help plug the gap. This gap is due to a temporary cut in Federal funding, and without closing this gap most providers will need to cut program services before full federal funding kicks back in.

We’re grateful to Governor Hochul for responding to this funding crisis, and we’re now looking to the Legislature to step up and fund the remainder.

 

Budget Testimony

We also continued our budget advocacy through the joint legislative hearings – Senior Attorney Kirsten Keefe prepared and submitted our Housing budget testimony on January 31, which covered the importance of fully funding the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) as New York State faces extremely high mortgage delinquency rates, especially for homeowners of color.

Emilia Sicilia, Statewide DAP Coordinator, delivered our Human Services budget testimony to the hearing on February 2. This testimony was prepared by Emilia, Senior Benefits Attorney Susan Antos, Health Attorney Alexia Mickles, and Senior Health Attorney Fiona Wolfe. This testimony covered a number of areas, with these three main requests:

 

Coverage For All

Immigrant advocates in New York City, Long Island, and Yonkers held rallies on February 18 to push legislators to pass the Coverage for All bill (A.880-A/S.1572-A)

Coverage for All would expand health care coverage to all New Yorkers by creating a state-funded health coverage option for all New Yorkers with income up to 200% of the federal poverty line, regardless of immigration status.

Empire Justice is a member of the robust coalition of community members, community organizations, health care providers, legal services providers, and labor, immigrant, and health care consumer advocates pushing this bill, and Senior Paralegal, Cheryl Keshner, was among the advocates quoted in a Harlem World Magazine article about the demonstrations: “Coverage for All will improve and expand access to essential and lifesaving healthcare for countless immigrants in New York State. This is a public health issue and will benefit all members of our community.”

 

Making Credit More Equitable

Transgender and nonbinary consumers face myriad credit reporting problems after a legal name change, with serious consequences for their financial and personal lives.

These issues can stop trans and nonbinary people from accessing banking services, mortgages, rental housing, auto financing, and even employment.

On February 24, we joined 145 LGBTQI, consumer, and antipoverty organizations in sending a letter to the largest credit consumer reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and the Consumer Data Industry Association, urging action to fix these problems with five concrete steps, outlined in the letter.

 

Advocacy for Systemic Change

Manager for Policy & Communications, Eòghann Renfroe, will be presenting NYTAG Conversations: Advocacy for Systemic Policy Change on Monday Feb 28, at 7:00 PM.

This presentation, in partnership with the New York Transgender Advocacy Group (NYTAG) is for folks who want to learn how to translate personal or individual advocacy into systemic policy change advocacy – changing the systems and laws in which we live for the better.

NYTAG Conversations is a free conversation and workshop series for transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary community members and accomplices. Register here.

 

CASH Is Helping Rochester Residents

We are proud to announce that CASH has already helped Rochester residents claim $2 million in Federal and State Refunds in the first 3 weeks of tax season!

“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.”

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

 

Legal Help Line

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!

 

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

 


Policy Matters – January 2022

Posted on January 31st, 2022

 

Welcome to the January edition of our newsletter, Policy Matters. In this edition we cover the Executive budget, offer a preview of upcoming benefits legislation, our joint budget hearing testimony, a push for public banks, a victory for consumers, and the opening of free tax prep for Rochester-area folks. You can read an archived version here.

 

Executive Budget

Budget season is in full swing with the release of the Executive Budget (and the accompanying Briefing Book) last week, following the State of the State address at the beginning of the month.

For Empire Justice, the highlights of the Executive budget are:

We are also pleased at the Governor’s State of the State proposal to create a new office of language access.

One important thing missing from the Executive budget is gap funding for Crime Victims Services. The Office of Victims Services (OVS) has told providers to expect a 10-15% cut, due to a temporary reduction in federal funding. We are pushing for the inclusion of gap funding of $25 million dollars a year for three years to keep Crime Victims Services funded at the same level until the federal funding fully resolves.

 

Omnibus Benefits Legislation Is Coming…

Stay tuned in the coming days for some major policy updates in public benefits! Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal is championing a package that will help New Yorkers with basic necessities such as food and shelter.

 

Joint Legislative Budget Hearings

The Legislature has begun its joint legislative hearing process, and our President and CEO, Kristin Brown, submitted testimony before our first hearing, Public Protection, on January 25. We are requesting:

We will also be submitting testimony by Senior Attorney Kirsten Keefe to the Housing hearing on January 31. Emilia Sicilia, statewide coordinator for the DAP program, will be testifying at the Human Services hearing on February 2.

 

Pushing for Public Banking

Even before COVID-19 gripped our communities, New York faced widening income inequality, banking deserts, and lack of financial and lending opportunities, especially for communities of color. As New York moves toward a post-COVID future, local governments need a new tool to ensure a just recovery for all New Yorkers – public banks.

That is why we signed onto a letter of support with over 150 other advocacy groups calling for the passage of the New York Public Banking Act (S.1762-A Sanders/A.8290 Fahy).

“Our organizations are fighting for public banks that have a clear mission to advance racial, economic, and environmental justice,” the letter supporting the New York Public Banking Act states. “With these principles at their core, public banks would reinvest in New York’s low-income and immigrant neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color, meeting critical community needs and strengthening our ability to withstand future crises.”

 

Victory for Consumers

We had one last 2021 victory when Governor Hochul signed the Consumer Judgement Interest Act (S.5724-A Parke /A.6474-A Weinstein) on December 31. This law will now protect New Yorkers from excessive interest rate on money judgments arising out of consumer debt, including medical and student debt, by capping judgment interest rates to two percent.

Thanks again to sponsors Assemblymember Helene Weinstein and Senator Kevin Thomas!

 

CASH Is Open For Tax Season!

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

 

Immigration Help Line

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!

 

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

 

 

 

 

 


Disability Law News – January 2022

Posted on January 30th, 2022

The Disability Law News is a quarterly newsletter published for DAP Advocates. In this issue, Social Security Administration’s office remain closed and we discuss progress in SSA’s move towards “reentry”. The Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in U.S. v. Vaello-Madero that challenges the constitutionality of the exclusion of residents of Puerto Rico from the SSI program and appears posed to overturn the First Circuits decision. Also in this issue are several studies and reports from the GAO and OIG. Finally, several new Regulations and Administrative Decisions are included in this issue.