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Joint Memo of Support for SSP Bill

Posted on May 26th, 2021

Joint Memo of Support
SSP Bill

AB7528 (Rosenthal)

We recommend you view the full PDF.

 

Dear Chairperson Rosenthal and Speaker Heastie:

We write to express our strong support for AB7528, filed by Chairperson Linda Rosenthal requiring the Office of Temporary Disability (OTDA) to continue to provide State Supplement
Program (SSP) benefits to senior and disabled individuals whose eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is for a closed period only. We urge you to pass the measure.

Many senior and disabled New Yorkers rely on SSI, a needs-based program available only to those with very limited or no income. In New York, SSI has a federal component, administered by the Social Security Administration, and a state component, SSP, which has been administered by OTDA since 2014. Currently, New York’s SSP portion is either in the amounts of $23 or $87 each month for individuals, and $46 or $104 for couples, depending on living arrangement.

In January 2021, OTDA implemented a series of so-called “clarifying” changes through rule making. While we supported many provisions proposed by the agency, we strenuously objected to changes now in effect requiring disabled and senior New Yorkers be in active receipt of SSP benefits in order to obtain retroactive SSP benefits.

Due to delays and complexities embedded in the disability benefits applications process, a number of very low-income seniors and disabled New Yorkers are eligible for SSP only for a five-month period while waiting for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, and are no longer active SSP recipients by the time SSI benefits are awarded. The new OTDA changes deprive very low-income New Yorkers of a small but important supplement to their income. This includes those who are only eligible for SSP benefits during their five-month waiting period for SSDI, and others whose SSI benefits were suspended for technical reasons, but otherwise would be eligible for SSP.

We point out that the January 2021 regulations’ limitation of retroactive payments to only active participants undermine decades of policy and practice. The changes also administratively overrule three court decisions that directed OTDA to pay SSP benefits to people who were eligible for SSI for a closed period. Moreover, previous to the New York takeover of SSP in 2014 from the Social Security Administration (SSA), SSA issued retroactive SSI payments to recipients. But once New York State took over administration of the SSP program, OTDA stopped paying these retroactive benefits, despite being directed by both its own fair hearing bureau and the courts to continue paying them.

Empire Justice Center and the undersigned organizations have appreciated working with OTDA as a partner in advocating for low-income New Yorkers. However, we expressed serious concerns when OTDA took over the administration of SSP. We were especially worried that very low-income seniors and disabled New Yorkers would be left worse off from the switch in spite of savings for the state. At the time, the OTDA commissioner repeatedly reassured advocates and the public that vulnerable New Yorkers who rely on these desperately needed benefits would not be affected by the change. These 2021 January regulations limiting eligibility t 1 o an entire subset of applicants do not live up to that promise made by the agency.

For these reasons, we appreciate the Chairperson Rosenthal’s support in advocating for very low-income seniors and disabled New Yorkers. While the dollar amounts are modest, they make a world of difference to recipients. We urge the leadership to pass the measure.

 

Sincerely,

 

Susan Antos
Senior Attorney
Empire Justice Center

 

Kristin Brown
President and CEO
Empire Justice Center

 

Adriene Holder
Attorney-in-Charge
Civil Practice
The Legal Aid Society

 

Gene Doyle
Executive Director
People Organized for Our Rights, Inc. (P.O.O.R.)

 

Beth Goldman
President & Attorney-in-Charge
New York Legal Assistance Group

 

Jeanette F. Estima
Director of Policy
FPWA

 

Rae Glaser
Director
NYS Kinship Navigator

 

Joseph Kelemen
Executive Director
Western New York Law Center

 

Saima Akhtar
Senior Attorney
National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ)

 

Richard Berkley, Esq.
Executive Director
Public Utility Law Project of New York (PULP)

 

Doug Lasdon
Executive Director
Urban Justice Center

 

[1] Elizabeth Berlin, Executive Deputy Commissioner, NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, OTDA Formal Budget Hearing Testimony, November 13, 2012.


Joint Memo of Support – Gender Recognition Act 2021

Posted on April 27th, 2021

Logos for each organizational sign-on to this memo of support

 

Joint Memo of Support
Gender Recognition Act

S.4402 (Hoylman) / A.5465 (O’Donnell)

We recommend you read the full PDF

 

We, the undersigned organizations, supported by hundreds of thousands of members, donors, clients, students, and other stakeholders throughout the State of New York, share the common goal of advancing the civil and human rights of all people regardless of gender and eliminating barriers that undermine the health, safety, and equality of people because of their gender. We support the rights of transgender, nonbinary, and intersex New Yorkers. We write to urge your support for the Gender Recognition Act (S.4402/A.5465).

The Gender Recognition Act would help transgender people, including nonbinary people, access documents that accurately reflect their identities. The bill would:

The Gender Recognition Act has had substantial input from the transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, and intersex advocacy community – both in New York State and nationally. The language in the bill is maximally effective, aligns with national trends (placing New York back at the forefront of progress), and genuinely addresses the issues faced by these communities on the ground. The Gender Recognition Act is a comprehensive bill which will address loopholes and contradictions in existing law.

 

Adding a Gender-Neutral Designation

We support the Gender Recognition Act (S.4402/A.5465) because binary gender designations of “female” or “male” fail to adequately represent the diversity of human experience. Nonbinary people have gender identities that fall outside traditional conceptions of strictly male or female.

Twenty-six jurisdictions throughout the U.S. now offer gender-neutral designations on birth certificates, state IDs, or both, including: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York City, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C.[1]

Over one-third of all transgender people in the U.S. identify as nonbinary, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. A gender-neutral option on driver’s licenses and birth certificates would allow people whose gender is not male or female to display an accurate gender marker. While there was an administrative policy change at the Department of Health to allow for X designations on New York State birth certificates, we would like to codify such a policy in statute so that a subsequent administration cannot revoke the policy change. There are also currently New Yorkers born within the five boroughs, or in the abovementioned states’ jurisdictions, who have an X on their birth certificate but have no mechanism to get a matching driver’s license or state ID in New York. Allowing the DMV to issue IDs with an X would allow nonbinary people to have matching documents and would align intrastate agency policy.

 

Allowing for Gender Designation Changes by Self-Attestation

Self-designation occurs when an individual reports information on an application, under penalty of perjury, that does not need to be verified by any secondary source, such as a medical provider. Since a person’s own report is the most accurate means of ascertaining the appropriate sex designation for their documents, removing the medical attestation requirement alleviates an unnecessary and often prohibitively expensive burden placed on transgender people seeking corrected documents. This will ensure better access to accurate gender marker designations for all transgender people.

Transgender people frequently do not have access to appropriate medical care. Nearly one-third (32%) of transgender individuals in New York who saw a health care provider in the previous year reported having a negative experience related to being transgender, including verbal harassment, refusal of treatment, or even physical or sexual assault. Many did not see a doctor when they needed to because they feared mistreatment for being transgender, and more than a quarter of transgender respondents in New York (28%) could not see a doctor because of cost.[2]

Requiring healthcare providers to attest to an individual’s gender identity is costly, burdensome, and entirely unnecessary. Finding a competent provider who is able and willing to attest to an individual’s gender identity is challenging, if not impossible, particularly for rural residents. Even if people are able to access a competent provider, each provider appointment can cost hundreds of dollars, and some providers require multiple visits before writing a certificate letter, making barriers particularly high for low-income people.[3] In addition, as long as an X gender marker is not available, the state is effectively requiring providers and some transgender and intersex people to commit perjury when obtaining state-issued documents or amending the gender marker on their documents, because the physician must attest that the person has transitioned to male or female and that one gender predominates, which is not the case for many transgender and nonbinary people.

 

Removing Publication Requirements

The Gender Recognition Act takes an essential step towards protecting transgender individuals by eliminating the publication requirement for name changes, which also eliminates existing inconsistencies in how judges apply the publication requirement today. Currently, in order to get a name change in New York State, applicants are required to publish notice of their name change in a newspaper, including their old name, new name, home address, place of birth, and birth date. This essentially means that a transgender petitioner must run a newspaper advertisement that reveals the fact that they are transgender and where they live. This can put petitioners at real risk of violence; many transgender people face blatant discrimination and severe violence simply for being who they are.

Judges who are aware of these threats to safety have discretion to waive the publication requirement on an individual basis upon a showing, by the totality of the circumstances, of a threat to personal safety. Under current law, that threat does not need to be based on a personalized history of violence, but there is a lack of consistency in the granting of waivers. Some judges waive the publication requirement while others never do, even if the petitioner shows a particularized, individual threat to their personal safety. Outing oneself as transgender to the court and to the public always carries a threat to one’s safety. If someone’s transgender status is mentioned in their petition and publication is not waived, that document remains in the public domain and accessible by anyone who seeks it.

The following twenty-two jurisdictions have no statutory publication requirement at all for legal name changes: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Washington D.C. California and Colorado have no publication requirement if the name change is related to gender.[4]

The publication requirement is no longer necessary for its original purpose of notifying creditors of a name change. Judges have discretion to require specific, direct notifications to creditors and other parties when appropriate, and financial institutions in the Internet age no longer require publication information to keep accurate records. At this point – aside from forcing transgender people to disproportionately incur the expense of publication since a legal name change is often a required element of transition – the only result of publication is to out a person as transgender. Not only does this place them at increased risk of violence, but it publicizes personal medical information when a more narrowly tailored option is available.

The publication requirement impacts all name change petitioners, whether transgender or not. Many people who file a name change petition on their own do not realize that publication is a condition of obtaining their final certified orders and then must restart the name change process because the time to publish as set forth in their order has expired. Self-represented petitioners may not realize they have the option to request a waiver, and others are unable to afford the publication fee within the required timeframe and also must start over. Removing the publication requirement would streamline and standardize this process for everyone.

Notably, there is no publication requirement for a person who seeks to change their name attendant to marriage or naturalization. The current law’s treatment of marriage in particular as an acceptable reason for a name change, without question, while transgender people and others seeking a name change for equally important reasons are treated as presumptively suspect is an anachronistic holdover that relies on and entrenches old sexist and transphobic stereotypes. This unequal treatment calls into question the validity of the current statute under the New York Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

The Gender Recognition Act also allows petitioners to request that their name change record be sealed. Explicitly allowing judges to consider transgender status as a justification for sealing records will further protect transgender petitioners. Currently, a name change record is sealed automatically when publication is waived. If the publication requirement is removed from the name change statute, we must ensure transgender people and other at-risk populations like domestic violence survivors have a mechanism to seal their records. New York State should adopt the Gender Recognition Act to ensure a safe, fair, and predictable process.

 

Allowing Transgender Parents to Update Information on Their Child’s Birth Certificate

Many transgender people, including nonbinary people, are also parents. These parents must show their child’s birth certificate when registering their child for school. These parents should be able to update their child’s birth certificate to display their current legal name to ensure privacy and accuracy. Additionally, a nonbinary parent who does not identify as “mother” or “father” should easily be able to be correctly identified as “parent” on their child’s birth certificate.

As of July 2020, the Department of Health made an administrative change to allow a transgender parent whose child was born prior to their name change to change their own name on their child’s documents without a court order separate and in addition to their actual name change order. Prior to this change, the Department of Health required a second order explicitly ordering them to change the parent’s name on the child’s birth certificate. Beyond the additional court cost that fell almost exclusively on transgender people, judges in many counties do not issue such orders because name changes on birth certificates are generally an administrative matter. We would like to codify this change in statute so that it cannot be rolled back administratively at a later date.

If the policy were to be rolled back, parents whose children were born outside of New York City would be required to out themselves as transgender and present their name change order with their child’s birth certificate when registering for school or sports, applying for a passport, or doing any number of ordinary activities. If the parent sought to change their own name on their own birth certificate, their name change order would be sufficient to do so, but the Department of Health previously did not comply with certified court orders dictating that a parent shall go by their new name and no other name, and there is concern such a policy could return without a statutory change. Allowing transgender parents in all of New York State to update their child’s documents ensures that correct records are kept – including when a child must use their birth certificate as foundational documentation upon which other documents are based – and would ensure that transgender parents need not out themselves in the normal course of parenting.

 

Providing for Court Orders When Necessary

New York State courts do not currently have clear jurisdiction to issue orders recognizing an individual’s gender. While people born within New York State may update their records administratively without a court order, many other states require a court order to change the gender designation on a birth certificate. Requiring a court order to change gender designations is highly burdensome, and we are glad this is not required in New York; the Gender Recognition Act makes clear that under no circumstance should such an order be required to change a document issued by New York State. However, for New York residents born elsewhere, if courts do not have explicit jurisdiction to issue the required order, there is effectively no mechanism to change an out-of-state birth certificate.

The Gender Recognition Act would grant courts the power to issue an order recognizing an individual’s gender identity, allowing New York State residents born out of state to update their birth certificates without the added expense and burden of traveling to the state of their birth, finding local counsel, and initiating a proceeding elsewhere. New Yorkers should be able to access the courts where they live.

 

Supporting Transgender and Nonbinary Youth

Until recently, New York State did not allow minors to update the gender marker on their birth certificate. Indeed, the Department of Health’s policy only changed after a settlement with Lambda Legal.[5] While this administrative change was a positive one, like with the other proposals mentioned herein, there is concern that a simple administrative change is easily revocable. The policy of prohibiting gender marker corrections for transgender youth was anomalous in New York and the nation. Minors born in New York City have long had the opportunity to correct their birth certificates at whatever age their parents and providers determine that that is appropriate for them. Similarly, the 12 jurisdictions that have modernized their birth certificate policies to eliminate surgery requirements all have the same policy regardless of age.

Many minors begin to transition both socially, and sometimes medically, prior to their 17th birthdays. The previous policy resulted in minors having to out themselves any time they needed to use their birth certificate. In particular, many young people graduate high school and enter college prior to their 17th birthday and, due to this policy, were unable to update their birth certificate prior to registering for college, which created many complications for recordkeeping.

Birth certificate changes are important for transgender people regardless of their age. Being forced to use identity documents that do not accurately reflect a person’s gender opens the door to harassment and discrimination. Youth who do not have appropriate identification documents face the risk of stigma, discrimination, and bullying if their transgender status is publicized as a result of their incorrect birth certificate. Beyond that, the longer a person must use incorrect foundational documents, the more subsequent documents are based on that information and must be changed later. The Gender Recognition Act ensures that youth have access to accurate birth certificates along with everyone else.

 

Requiring Justification for Notice & Consent in Name Change Matters

Currently, the name change statute sets out the circumstances in which certain parties must be notified of a name change proceeding either before the proceeding can move forward or before the petitioner can obtain certified copies of their name change order. Specifically, minor petitioners must notify their legal parent(s) and petitioners with certain felony convictions must notify certain prosecutorial and supervisory entities. However, many judges go beyond the statute to require notification to and consent from parties outside the scope of the contemplated regime.

In some cases, for example, judges have required notification to or consent from an adult petitioner’s parent or a judge or prosecutor who previously convicted/sentenced a petitioner in criminal court. In Manhattan Civil Court, the court requires spousal consent for all married petitioners before the matter can even go before a judge. The court calls it an acknowledgement to avoid the appearance that they are conditioning an adult’s name change on some other party’s consent, but in practice, it effectively functions as required consent.

These requirements are an infringement on a person’s right to go by the name they choose. They have the potential to put petitioners in a dangerous situation if it is not safe for them to inform a spouse or parent of their name change or transgender status, or they may serve as an insurmountable barrier if the petitioner’s spouse or parent cannot be located or refuses to provide consent. Regarding consent from a judge or prosecutor who previously oversaw a conviction, these parties have no standing to object to a petitioner’s name change and have already punished the petitioner for whatever crime they were convicted of; they should not be able to further insert themselves into the petitioner’s life to prevent them from moving forward as themselves.

In addition, notice to various federal immigration agencies is routinely ordered for individuals born outside the United States, whether documented or not, particularly in New York City Civil Court. Name change petitioners must ultimately update their name on their immigration documents at great cost. It is in their interest to make these updates so that they can begin using documentation with the appropriate information on it. It is not the City or State court’s job to do the federal government’s bidding with regards to immigration enforcement. This particular requirement unduly burdens some of the most vulnerable name change petitioners, creates confusion around whether notice in fact updates someone’s documents and records (it does not), and potentially subjects them to immigration enforcement action simply for attempting to access the courts, which they have the right to do.

The Gender Recognition Act does not eliminate judicial discretion to order appropriate notifications. The bill simply clarifies under what circumstances notice is appropriate (the bill maintains the existing minor and felony notifications) and requires a judge to provide a written decision showing good cause why a person or entity outside the current standard must be notified in a given case. If the notice can be justified, a judge remains within their discretion to order it. If the notice cannot be justified, a petitioner has a written decision from which to appeal.

 

Requiring Compliance with Name Change Orders

When a name change petitioner obtains their certified name change order, they must go to every individual agency and entity with whom they need to change their information. At the agency level, there are generally standards by which clerks must process a name change and/or gender marker change. However, for private entities and other non-agency public entities, such as schools, there is no enforcement mechanism when a person’s request to update their information is denied despite a court order saying they shall go by the new name. This results in a patchwork of standards that leaves people across the state unclear about whether they will be able to update a given document.

In the school context, oftentimes when a person returns to the institution they graduated from and requests a name change, they are met with refusal because “that is not the person who graduated” from the institution. A similar issue arises when a person who was married before their name change attempts to change the name on their marriage certificate. The Division of Vital Records’ current policy is to have the couple divorce and remarry in order to obtain an accurate marriage certificate, purportedly because the original document was witnessed and thus cannot be amended. It is unclear why a new, amended document could not simply be re-witnessed, but this is obviously an absurd requirement with major implications for the lives of married transgender people. A divorce is a life event that needs to be disclosed in various contexts – including in a name change petition – and it is unjust to require someone who does not wish to divorce to do so simply to update a document.

The Gender Recognition Act proposal regarding document updates requires all entities to comply with a name change order by updating the requested documentation or record, and establishes a cause of action for an individual to file a complaint with the relevant enforcement agencies should anyone refuse to comply with the order. While New York is a common law name change jurisdiction, meaning that anyone can go by any name they wish as long as it is not for fraudulent purposes or to interfere with the rights of others, changing many official documents and records requires a court ordered name change. Transgender people should not be required to go through the judicial name change process just to get a court order that an entity can simply refuse to comply with, leaving them with no recourse.

As transgender people recover from years of attacks from the federal government, and transgender youth specifically are being targeted in many states, it is essential that New York act to support its transgender, nonbinary, and intersex residents. The Gender Recognition Act goes a long way toward ensuring that every New Yorker can access documents that truly represent their identity and preserve their privacy, and brings New York back to the forefront on transgender equity. Please support this legislation to update the name change process and gender marker options in New York State.

For these reasons, we, the undersigned organizations, support the passage of the Gender Recognition Act.

 

Sincerely,

 

Professor Susan Hazeldean

Brooklyn Law School LGBT Advocacy Clinic

 

Eòghann Renfroe, Policy & Comms Manager

Lettie Dickerson, Esq., LGBTQ Rights Attorney

Empire Justice Center

 

Juli Grey-Owens, Board Chair & Executive Director

Gender Equality New York, Inc (GENY)

 

Kelsey Louie, Chief Executive Officer

GMHC

 

Ethan Rice, Esq., Senior Attorney

Lambda Legal                                               

 

Lía Fiol-Matta, Senior Counsel

Latino Justice PRLDEF

 

Sonja Shield, President

Legal Services Staff Association, LSSA 2320

 

Trevon Mayers, Senior Director of Advocacy & Community Engagement

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center

 

Mateo Guerrero-Taberes, TGNCIQ Lead Organizer

Make the Road New York

 

Milo Primeaux, Esq.

Law Office of Milo Primeaux

 

Allie Bohm, Esq., Policy Counsel

Bobby Hodgson, Esq., Senior Staff Attorney

New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU)

 

Heather Betz, Esq., Project Director

New York Legal Assistance Group, LGBTQ Law Project

 

J. Leigh Oshiro-Brantly, President

New York State Gender Diversity Coalition (NYSGDC)

 

Kiara St. James, Executive Director

New York Transgender Advocacy Group (NYTAG)

 

Nneka Okpara, Staff Attorney

Peter Cicchino Youth Project of the Urban Justice Center

 

Brooke Malloy, Executive Director

Phyllis B. Frank Pride Center of Rockland County

 

Sylvia Rivera Law Project

 

Andrew A. Ortiz, Esq., Staff Attorney

Transgender Law Center

 

David Brown, Esq., Legal Director

Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund

 

Cristina Herrera, CEO & Founder

TransLatinx Network

 

For more information about this bill, please contact:

 

Eòghann Renfroe                                                                                Charlie Arrowood

518-935-2856                                                                                      516-331-1317

erenfroe@empirejustice.org                                                            carrowood@transgenderlegal.org

 

[1] Movement Advancement Project, Equality Maps: Identity Document Laws and Policies, http://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/identity_document_laws (March 24, 2021).

[2] 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey: New York State Report (October 2017) https://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/USTS%20NY%20State%20Report%20%281017%29.pdf

[3] For example, in a recent analysis by the WA State Department of Health of a proposed rule that would remove the provider attestation requirement to update the gender marker on a WA birth certificate, the department estimated that the cost of obtaining an attestation letter from a licensed health care provider ranged from $0 to $910. Washington Department of Health, Significant Rule Analysis: WAC 246-490-075 Changing sex designation on a birth certificate, November 1, 2017, available at https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/policyreview/Documents/SA_GenderChange_BirthCertificate.pdf.

[4] Information compiled from the ID Documents Center, National Center for Transgender Equality, available at: https://transequality.org/documents

[5] M.H.W. v. Cuomo, No. 20-cv-00017 (N.D.N.Y.)  – information available at https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/mhw-v-cuomo


Memo of Support – SNAP Online Pilot Program (A.10673/S.8247-A)

Posted on November 2nd, 2020

Click here for full memo: SNAP Online Pilot Program (A.10673/S.8247-A

 


Joint Memo of Support – Gender Recognition Act

Posted on March 9th, 2020

Joint Memo of Support

Arrowood Law Brooklyn Law School LGBT Advocacy Clinic, Empire Justice Center, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Intersex & Genderqueer Recognition Project, Legal Services Staff Association LSSA 2320, New York Civil Liberties Union, New York Legal Assistance Group LGBTQ Law Project, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Transgender Defense & Education Fund, Transgender Law Center, TransLatinx Network

Gender Recognition Act

A.3457-B (Ortiz)/S.0056-B (Hoylman)

 

You can read the PDF here

We, the undersigned organizations, supported by hundreds of thousands of members, donors, clients, students, and other stakeholders throughout the State of New York, share the common goal of advancing the civil and human rights of all people regardless of gender and eliminating barriers that undermine the health, safety, and equality of people because of their gender. We support the rights of transgender, nonbinary, and intersex New Yorkers. We write to urge your support for the Gender Recognition Act (A.3457-B/S.0056-B).

The Gender Recognition Act would help transgender people, including nonbinary people, access documents that accurately reflect their identities. The bill would:

The Gender Recognition Act has had substantial input from the transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, and intersex advocy community – both in New York State and nationally. The language in the bill is maximally effective, aligns with national trends (placing New York back at the forefront of progress), and genuinely addresses the issues faced by these communities on the ground. The Gender Recognition Act is a comprehensive bill which will address loopholes and contradictions in existing law.

 

Adding a Gender-Neutral Designation

We support the Gender Recognition Act (A3457-B/S56-B) because binary gender designations of “female” or “male” fail to adequately represent the diversity of human experience. Nonbinary people have gender identities that fall outside traditional conceptions of strictly male or female.

Twenty-one jurisdictions throughout the U.S. now offer gender-neutral designations on birth certificates, state IDs, or both, including: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York City, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C.[1]

Over one-third of all transgender people in the U.S. identify as nonbinary, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. A gender-neutral option on driver’s licenses and birth certificates would allow people whose gender is not male or female to display an accurate gender marker. There are currently New Yorkers born within the five boroughs, or in the abovementioned states’ jurisdictions, who have an X on their birth certificate but have no mechanism to get a matching driver’s license or state ID. Allowing the DMV to issue IDs with an X would allow nonbinary people to have matching documents.

 

Removing the Provider Attestation Requirement

Self-designation occurs when an individual reports information on an application, under penalty of perjury, that does not need to be verified by any secondary source, such as a medical provider. Since a person’s own report is the most accurate means of ascertaining the appropriate sex designation for their documents, removing the medical attestation requirement alleviates an unnecessary and often prohibitively expensive burden placed on transgender people seeking corrected documents. This will ensure better access to accurate gender marker designations for all transgender people.

Transgender people frequently do not have access to appropriate medical care. Nearly one-third (32%) of transgender individuals in New York who saw a health care provider in the previous year reported having a negative experience related to being transgender, including verbal harassment, refusal of treatment, or even physical or sexual assault. Many did not see a doctor when they needed to because they feared mistreatment for being transgender, and more than a quarter of transgender respondents in New York (28%) could not see a doctor because of cost.[2]

Requiring healthcare providers to attest to an individual’s gender identity is costly, burdensome, and entirely unnecessary. Finding a competent provider who is able and willing to attest to an individual’s gender identity is challenging, if not impossible, particularly for rural residents. Even if people are able to access a competent provider, each provider appointment can cost hundreds of dollars, and some providers require multiple visits before writing a certificate letter, making barriers particularly high for low-income people.[3] In addition, as long as an X gender marker is not available, the state is effectively requiring providers and some transgender and intersex people to commit perjury when obtaining state-issued documents or amending the gender marker on their documents.

In addition to the provider letter required for changing a photo ID, in order to change the gender marker on a New York State birth certificate, the Department of Health requires that a doctor’s signature be notarized. Because a transgender person seeking to amend their birth certificate is the only circumstance in which a doctor’s signature is not “inherently” notarized under New York law, physicians are often unable to find a notary or unwilling to use personal time to find one outside their office. Oftentimes, since they are accustomed to not needing a notary, providers will refuse to seek one out because they believe it is unnecessary and that the patient is mistaken.

 

Removing Publication Requirements

The Gender Recognition Act takes an essential step towards protecting transgender individuals by eliminating the publication requirement for name changes, which also eliminates existing inconsistencies in how judges apply the publication requirement today. Currently, in order to get a name change in New York State, applicants are required to publish notice of their name change in a newspaper, including their old name, new name, home address, place of birth, and birth date. This essentially means that a transgender petitioner must run a newspaper advertisement that reveals the fact that they are transgender and where they live. This can put petitioners at real risk of violence; many transgender people face blatant discrimination and severe violence simply for being who they are.

Judges who are aware of these threats to safety have discretion to waive the publication requirement on an individual basis upon a showing, by the totality of the circumstances, of a threat to personal safety. Under current law, that threat does not need to be based on a personalized history of violence, but there is a lack of consistency in the granting of waivers. Some judges waive the publication requirement while others never do, even if the petitioner shows a particularized, individual threat to their personal safety. Outing oneself as transgender to the court and to the public always carries a threat to one’s safety. If someone’s transgender status is mentioned in their petition and publication is not waived, that document remains in the public domain and accessible by anyone who seeks it.

The following eighteen states have no publication requirement at all for legal name changes: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. California has no publication requirement if the name change is related to gender.[4]

The publication requirement is no longer necessary for its original purpose of notifying creditors of a name change. Judges have discretion to require specific, direct notifications to creditors and other parties when appropriate, and financial institutions in the Internet age no longer require publication information to keep accurate records. At this point – aside from forcing transgender people to disproportionately incur the expense of publication since a legal name change is often a required element of transition – the only result of publication is to out a person as transgender. Not only does this place them at increased risk of violence, but it publicizes personal medical information when a more narrowly tailored option is available.

The publication requirement impacts all name change petitioners, whether transgender or not. Many people who file a name change petition on their own do not realize that publication is a condition of obtaining their final certified orders and then must restart the name change process because the time to publish as set forth in their order has expired. Removing the publication requirement would streamline and standardize this process for everyone.

Notably, there is no publication requirement for a person who seeks to change their name attendant to marriage or naturalization. The current law’s treatment of marriage in particular as an acceptable reason for a name change, without question, while transgender people and others seeking a name change for equally important reasons are treated as presumptively suspect is an anachronistic holdover that relies on and entrenches old sexist and transphobic stereotypes. This unequal treatment calls into question the validity of the current statute under the New York Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

The Gender Recognition Act also allows petitioners to request that their name change record be sealed. Explicitly allowing judges to consider transgender status as a justification for sealing records will further protect transgender petitioners. Currently, a name change record is sealed automatically when publication is waived. If the publication requirement is removed from the name change statute, we must ensure transgender people and other at-risk populations like domestic violence survivors have a mechanism to seal their records. New York State should adopt the Gender Recognition Act to ensure a safe, fair, and predictable process.

 

Allowing Transgender Parents to Update Information on Their Child’s Birth Certificate

Many transgender people, including nonbinary people, are also parents. These parents must show their child’s birth certificate when registering their child for school. These parents should be able to update their child’s birth certificate to display their current legal name to ensure privacy and accuracy. Additionally, a nonbinary parent who does not identify as “mother” or “father” is currently unable to be correctly identified as “parent” on their child’s birth certificate, setting them up for difficulties communicating with school personnel.

A transgender parent whose child was born prior to their name change is unable to change their name on their child’s documents without a court order separate and in addition to their actual name change order. The Department of Health currently requires a second order explicitly ordering them to change the parent’s name on the child’s birth certificate. Beyond the additional court cost that falls almost exclusively on transgender people, judges in many counties will not issue such orders because name changes on birth certificates are generally an administrative matter. Indeed, a parent whose child has a New York City birth certificate is able to make this change administratively by simply sending their name change order to the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene.

Currently, parents whose children were born outside of New York City must out themselves as transgender and present their name change order with their child’s birth certificate when registering for school or sports, applying for a passport, or doing any number of ordinary activities. If the parent sought to change their own name on their own birth certificate, their name change order would be sufficient to do so, but the Department of Health does not comply with a certified court order when it dictates that a parent shall go by their new name and no other name. Allowing transgender parents in all of New York State to update their child’s documents would ensure that correct records are kept – including when a child must use their birth certificate as foundational documentation to obtain new documents – and would ensure that transgender parents need not out themselves in the normal course of parenting.

 

Providing for Court Orders When Necessary

New York State courts do not currently have clear jurisdiction to issue orders recognizing an individual’s gender. While people born within New York State may update their records administratively without a court order, many other states require a court order to change the gender designation on a birth certificate. Requiring a court order to change gender designations is highly burdensome, and we are glad this is not required in New York; the Gender Recognition Act makes clear that under no circumstance should such an order be required to change a document issued by New York State. However, for New York residents born elsewhere, if courts do not have explicit jurisdiction to issue the required order, there is effectively no mechanism to change a birth certificate.

The Gender Recognition Act would grant courts the power to issue an order recognizing an individual’s gender identity, allowing New York State residents born out of state to update their birth certificates without the added expense and burden of traveling to the state of their birth, finding local counsel, and initiating a proceeding elsewhere. New Yorkers should be able to access the courts where they live.

 

Supporting Transgender and Nonbinary Youth

New York State does not currently allow minors to update the gender marker on their birth certificate. Indeed, Lambda Legal recently sued the state[5] to change this policy. The present policy of prohibiting gender marker corrections for transgender youth is anomalous in New York and the nation. Minors born in New York City have the opportunity to correct their birth certificates at whatever age their parents and providers determine that that is appropriate for them. Similarly, the 12 jurisdictions that have modernized their birth certificate policies to eliminate surgery requirements all have the same policy regardless of age.

Many minors begin to transition both socially, and sometimes medically, prior to their 18th birthdays. The current policy results in minors having to out themselves any time they need to use their birth certificate. In particular, many young people graduate high school and enter college prior to their 18th birthday and, due to this policy, are unable to update their birth certificate prior to registering for college, which creates many complications for recordkeeping.

Birth certificate changes are important for transgender people regardless of their age. Being forced to use identity documents that do not accurately reflect a person’s gender opens the door to harassment and discrimination. Youth who do not have appropriate identification documents face the risk of stigma, discrimination, and bullying if their transgender status is publicized as a result of their incorrect birth certificate. Beyond that, the longer a person must use incorrect foundational documents, the more subsequent documents are based on that information and must be changed later. The Gender Recognition Act ensures that youth have access to accurate birth certificates along with everyone else.

As transgender people face attack after attack from the federal government, and transgender youth specifically are being targeted in many states, it is essential that New York act to support its transgender, nonbinary, and intersex residents. The Gender Recognition Act goes a long way toward ensuring that every New Yorker can access documents that truly represent their identity and preserve their privacy. Please support this legislation to update the name change process and gender marker options in New York State.

For these reasons, we, the undersigned organizations, support the passage of the Gender Recognition Act.

 

Sincerely,

 

Charlie Arrowood, Esq.,

Arrowood Law

 

Professor Susan Hazeldean

Brooklyn Law School LGBT Advocacy Clinic

 

Eòghann Renfroe, Policy Coordinator

Lettie Dickerson, Esq., LGBTQ Rights Attorney

Empire Justice Center

 

Kaleb Dornheim, Advocacy Specialist

Gay Men’s Health Crisis

 

Toby Adams, Esq., Legal & Policy Director

Intersex & Genderqueer Recognition Project

 

Ethan Rice, Esq., Senior Attorney

Lambda Legal

 

Sonja Shield, President

Legal Services Staff Association, LSSA 2320

 

Allie Bohm, Esq., Policy Counsel

Bobby Hodgson, Esq., Staff Attorney

New York Civil Liberties Union

 

Heather Betz, Esq., Project Director

New York Legal Assistance Group, LGBTQ Law Project

 

Sylvia Rivera Law Project

 

Alejandra Caraballo, Esq., Staff Attorney

Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund

 

Andrew A. Ortiz, Esq., Staff Attorney

Transgender Law Center

 

Cristina Herrera, CEO & Founder

TransLatinx Network

 

 

 

For more information about this bill, please contact:

Eòghann Renfroe                      

518-935-2856

erenfroe@empirejustice.org

 

Charlie Arrowood

516-331-1317

charlie@arrowood.law

 

[1] Movement Advancement Project, Equality Maps: Identity Document Laws and Policies, http://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/identity_document_laws (February 6, 2020).

[2] 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey: New York State Report (October 2017) https://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/USTS%20NY%20State%20Report%20%281017%29.pdf

[3] For example, in a recent analysis by the WA State Department of Health of a proposed rule that would remove the provider attestation requirement to update the gender marker on a WA birth certificate, the department estimated that the cost of obtaining an attestation letter from a licensed health care provider ranged from $0 to $910. Washington Department of Health, Significant Rule Analysis: WAC 246-490-075 Changing sex designation on a birth certificate, November 1, 2017, available at https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/policyreview/Documents/SA_GenderChange_BirthCertificate.pdf.

[4] Information compiled from the ID Documents Center, National Center for Transgender Equality, available at: https://transequality.org/documents

[5] M.H.W. v. Cuomo, No. 20-cv-00017 (N.D.N.Y.)  – information available at https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/mhw-v-cuomo


Memo of Support – Home Stability Support

Posted on February 24th, 2020

Memorandum of Support

HOME STABILITY SUPPORT WILL BRING HOUSING SECURITY AND DRAMATIC REDUCTIONS

IN THE SOARING COSTS OF EMERGENCY SHELTER

A.1620(HEVESI)/S.2375(KRUEGER)

Adds §131-bb, and amends §153 of the Social Services Law

 

The HSS bill would provide rent and heating supplements to enable low-income New Yorkers to remain in their homes.  Empire Justice Center strongly supports this bill.

New York State continues to break homelessness records on an annual basis.  Across the State, more than 90,000 New Yorkers are homeless each night and more than 150,000 children experience homelessness over the course of a year.

We have learned much about the impact of homelessness and housing insecurity – children do less well in school, parents are less able to secure and retain employment, mental and physical health are in jeopardy and the general well-being of the family suffers.

Empire Justice supports proposals to build more affordable housing, supportive housing and emergency shelters.  But these proposals are costly, and will take years to complete.  The problem of lower-income New Yorkers unable to meet their housing costs represents a crisis that must be addressed now.  The appalling disconnect between welfare rent allowances and the actual cost of housing must be addressed immediately.

Most public assistance recipients live in private housing with rent costs that are greater, often 150 to 200 percent greater, than the amount they receive for rent.  Without a swift change in policy, these New Yorkers face chronic housing instability and the hardship that comes with it.  At the same time, the cost of emergency shelter, of emergency medical needs, of diminished educational attainment and employment outcomes must be borne in large measure by the State and localities.  The costs are prohibitive.

Empire Justice strives to make legislators aware that the need, while certainly acute in New York City and the suburbs, is extreme throughout the state.  In Albany County, the rental amount provided by public assistance equals less than a third of the cost for a modest but decent two-bedroom unit; in Suffolk County the welfare rent would meet only slightly more than one-fifth of that cost and in Erie County, the public assistance rent amounts to just over one-third of the cost of a reasonable rental unit.  This is clearly a statewide crisis that needs a statewide solution.

In addition, many upstate households must pay for heat on top of their rent cost.  The existing welfare fuel-for-heating allowance has not been increased since its creation more than 30 years ago.  The inability to meet heating costs may mean that the family must relocate or must endure hazardous living conditions – another manifestation of housing instability.

We urge the Legislature to adopt and fund the Home Stability Support initiative (HSS).  HSS will create a new statewide rent supplement program for families and individuals facing eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous conditions.  The HSS rent supplement would enable a household to pay up to 85% of the HUD Fair Market Rent.  To account for the inadequacy of the current fuel allowance, HSS will also include a fuel supplement for those households that pay for heat separately from their rent.

HSS will reverse the growing trend of homelessness in New York State, keep low-income families and individuals in their homes, save millions of taxpayer dollars for emergency shelter and associated costs and will bring housing stability to thousands of struggling households.

Empire Justice Center urges you to support the Home Stability Support initiative.

 

 

For more information, please contact:

Don Friedman                                                 Eden Forsythe

(631) 650-2316                                               (518) 935-2843

dfriedman@empirejustice.org                     eforsythe@empirejustice.org


Memo of Support: Pass the Consumer Credit Fairness Act

Posted on June 14th, 2019

Memorandum in Support

Pass the Consumer Credit Fairness Act
A.6909A/S.4827A

We recommend you view the PDF here.

The Empire Justice Center strongly supports the Consumer Credit Fairness Act (CCFA), A.6909 (Weinstein)/S.4827 (Thomas) which proposes a series of changes to New York’s Civil Practice Law and Rules designed to curb the abusive debt collection lawsuits that have become an epidemic in New York State. Hundreds of thousands of debt collection lawsuits are filed against low and moderate income New Yorkers every year. Most of these lawsuits are brought by third-party debt buyers, companies that buy portfolios of old, defaulted debts from original creditors for pennies on the dollar. These lawsuits are fraught with problems which the CCFA addresses.

In many cases, these portfolios include debts that are too old to be sued on, have already been paid or discharged in bankruptcy, or resulted from identity theft or mistaken identity. In cases in which debt is legitimately still owed, debt buyers often pad the amounts owed with fees and interest they are not entitled to under the consumer credit contract. Debt buyers also have been known to engage in “sewer service,” failing to properly serve the consumer-defendant with the lawsuit so the consumer does not appear in court and a “default judgment” is obtained without having to produce proof of the debt.

The Consumer Credit Fairness Act (CCFA) would prevent debt buyers from continuing to exploit gaps in our state’s Civil Practice Law and Rules, while allowing legitimate cases to proceed. CCFA requires a notice to be mailed to the defendants in consumer credit actions by the clerk of the court, ensuring that defendants are given notice of the lawsuit. This practice is already required and has proven effective in the New York City Civil Court and should be expanded to consumers statewide. The CCFA also requires court filings to include more information about the debt sued upon, such as identifying the debt or account and providing proof that the debt is owed to the plaintiff including a copy of the contract. This requirement will substantially decrease the number of unsubstantiated cases and frivolous claims brought against consumers. Additional notice is required to defendants when a plaintiff files a motion for summary judgment. For victims of domestic violence who often experience economic abuse and identity theft at the hands of their current or former abusive partners, these safeguards provide important protections.

CCFA also reduces the statute of limitations for consumer credit transactions from six years to three years, and extinguishes the right to collect debts if the statute of limitations is expired. These requirements are critical for a few reasons. First, they compel creditors to file claims in a timely manner and better protect low and moderate income consumers from the excessive accumulation of interest charges and late fees. Second, there is a much greater likelihood that a consumer will move to a new address within six years, making it less likely that they will be properly served and alerted to the existence of the lawsuit. The current six year statute of limitations also increases the likelihood that the records related to a specific debt will be lost or destroyed by the original creditor. By shortening the statute of limitations, the Legislature would be reducing the possibility that the passage of time would introduce additional sources of error into any collection action brought in the courts of New York State.

Another strong protection within CCFA is that it outlaws debt buyers essentially going on fishing expeditions and suing on expired debt, understanding they will only prevail in cases in which the debtor presents no defense. Currently, debt buyers are allowed to file suits on old debt putting the burden on the consumer to raise a statute of limitations defense. This provision is critical to protecting consumers. Debt buyers successfully collect time barred debts because the vast majority of consumers in New York State do not have access to legal representation in these cases and do not have the legal knowledge that they should raise a statute of limitation defense. Allowing lawsuits to be filed on time barred debts results in the financial victimization particularly of low and moderate income New Yorkers who lack access to legal counsel.

For these reasons, Empire Justice Center strongly supports passage of the Consumer Credit Fairness Act this session.

This memorandum was prepared by:
Kirsten E. Keefe, Senior Staff Attorney
(518) 935-2846
kkeefe@empirejustice.org
Updated June 2019


Memo of Support: Assure Equal Access to Quality Child Care Cap Co-Payments at 20% of Income over Poverty

Posted on June 7th, 2019

Memorandum of Support

Assure Equal Access to Quality Child Care
Cap Co-Payments at 20% of Income over Poverty
A.3110 (Jaffee)/S.1546 (Kennedy)

We recommend you view the PDF here.

A child care subsidy provides low income parents access to quality child care that they could not otherwise afford, but it only provides meaningful access if parental co-payments are in an amount that low income families can afford. A cap of 20% of household income that exceeds the poverty level would provide equitable treatment of similarly situated low-income families across the state, and assure that New York State complies with federal law requiring that child care co-payments are affordable.

New York’s current parent fee scale is determined by the following formula: the poverty level income for the household size is subtracted from overall household income. Then, each social services district (county) chooses a multiplier between 10% and 35% to apply against the balance.1 The resulting number is the family’s yearly co-payment amount, which is divided by 52 to determine a weekly amount. This formula means that similarly situated families pay dramatically different fees for child care, depending solely upon the county in which the family resides.
As a general rule federally funded benefits for low income families (i.e. food stamps and HEAP) treat similarly situated people in an equitable manner, by providing uniform benefit standards. We would think it grossly unfair if persons with similar circumstances received fewer food stamp dollars than others in the same financial circumstances. Child care in New York is primarily a federally funded benefit and should not be so inequitably distributed among the citizens of New York State.

Federal child care regulations require that co-payments must be “affordable.” 42 CFR 9845(k)(3). The preamble to these regulations states: “…seven percent of family income” is the “benchmark for affordable child care. 81 Fed. Reg. 67467. This bill comes close to meeting that standard since it would provide that families at 150% of poverty pay 6.7% of their gross income, and no family under 200% of poverty would be required to pay more than 10% of their gross income.

The following chart shows what a family of three at 200% of poverty ($42,660/year) in each of the following counties pays for child care annually, and what they would pay under this proposed legislation:
 County Cost of Child Care Annually/Weekly Now Under A.3110/S1546 Cattaraugus, Livingston, $2133/$41 and Steuben $2133/$41 Oswego, Schuyler and $3200/$60 St. Lawrence $3200/$62 Allegany, Cayuga, $4266/$82 Chautauqua, Clinton, Columbia, Essex, Nassau, Niagara, Ontario, Putnam, Saratoga, Suffolk & Tompkins $4266/$81 Albany, Broome, Chemung, $5195/$111 Delaware, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Rensselaer, Rockland, Ulster, Warren , Washington and Wayne $4226/$81 Westchester $5759/$108 $4226/$81 Dutchess and Otsego $6399/$123 $4226/$81 Chenango, Cortland, Erie, Fulton, $7466/$144 Genesee, Greene, Herkimer, Monroe, Montgomery, New York City, Niagara, Onondaga, Orange, Orleans, Seneca, Sullivan, Tioga, Wyoming and Yates $4226.81 (Dollar figures in the chart are rounded to the nearest whole number)
This memorandum was prepared by:
Susan C. Antos, Esq.
Matthew Mobley
Empire Justice Center
119 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 12210
518-935-2845
santos@empirejustice.org
6/7/19

1 18 NYCRR 415.4(d)(3).


Memo of Support – Enhanced Reporting and Publishing of Financial Statements and Statistical Reports By For-Profit Higher Education Institutions

Posted on June 5th, 2019

Memorandum of Support 

Enhanced Reporting and Publishing of Financial Statements and Statistical Reports By For-Profit Higher Education Institutions

A.7769 (Epstein)/S.5799A (Thomas)

We recommend you view the PDF here.

 

Empire Justice Center strongly supports passage of A.7769 (Epstein)/S.5799A (Thomas) which would extend reporting and publication standards of financial statements to for-profit institutions for higher education.  The bill is a reasonable first step to establishing equal standards for all institutions of higher education.

 

For-profit higher education institutions are defined in A.7769/S.5799A to include degree-granting as well as non-degree granting post-secondary schools which operate for-profit in New York State.  The bill requires these institutions to file their audited financial statements annually with the New York State Education Department (NYSED) starting in July of 2020.  The financial statement may be the same that the school is required already to file with another government agency.  The Commissioner of the NYS Education Department may ask for audited statistical reports from the school if they determine there is a problem with the first reporting.  The bill requires the Commissioner to post the statements and reports on its website for public availability.

 

Non-profit private and public post-secondary schools of higher education are already required to disclose their financial statements which are made publicly available.  For private non-profit post-secondary schools, federal law and regulation requires disclosure and the Office of Management and Budget’s Uniform Guidance at 2 CFR 200-512 requires the Federal Audit Clearinghouse (FAC) to make the reporting of financial statements from private non-profit colleges publicly available on its website (see https://harvester.census.gov/facdissem/UniformGuidanceAcknowledgement.aspx).  Nonprofits are also required to allow for public inspection of their IRS tax filings (see, https://www.irs.gov/publications/p557#en_US_201801_publink1000199986, stating, “The law requires many exempt organizations and private foundations to make their application forms and annual information returns available for public inspection. The law also requires the IRS to make available for public inspection, in accordance with section 6104 and the related regulations, your approved application for recognition of exemption (including any papers submitted in support of the application) and the determination letter (discussed later, under Determination Letters ).”).

 

Most schools disclose their financial information electronically.  Websites such as Guidestar.org make the financial reports of private non-profits easily available for inspection.

The State University of New York Community Colleges are required to file the annual financial report as certified by the chief fiscal officer of the campus with the State Comptroller annually, pursuant to NYS General Municipal Law §30.  Campuses are also required to file a copy of their financial statements with the independent auditor’s report within one hundred and twenty (120) days after the close of the college fiscal year.  The audited financial statements of all community colleges in New York State are publicly posted for review at http://www.govwiki.info/pdfs/Community%20College%20District/?state=NY&year=.  Similarly, it is not difficult at all to find the public posting of SUNY’s financial statements.  SUNY posts its financial statement on its website (see https://www.suny.edu/media/suny/content-assets/communication/publicationsreportsdata/2018-Annual-Financial-Report.pdf). SUNY campuses make additional financial reports available on their individual websites, as well.

A.7769/S.5799A should present no additional burden or additional requirements on for-profit higher education institutions.  New York State Education Law sec. 5001 already requires non-degree granting institutions of higher education to submit certified statistical reports and annual financial statements to the NYSED.  (NY Ed Law sec. 5001(4)(e)(i)) (see http://www.acces.nysed.gov/bpss/schools/submission-required-annual-financial-statements-and-statistical-reports).  NYSED and the Board of Regents (BOR) have authority to request financial statements from degree-granting institutions of higher-education (see NY Ed Law sec. 215).  In addition, New York law requires the BOR to provide a report to the Governor and Legislature about financial assistance and loan programs (see NY Ed law sec. 603) which would require the collection of all higher education institutions’ financial statements that receive financial aid.   As noted above, the language of the bill allows institutions to file the same financial statements with the NYSED as they are currently required to file with another government agency.

Disclosure of information is a critical first step in understanding and comparing the experiences for students attending all different types of higher education institutions.  It is good public policy to make these disclosures available to the public so that students have more information about the schools which they are thinking about attending, often using considerable financial assistance through federal and state loans and grants.  In addition, making the financial statements more publicly available will provide greater information to policy makers and others regarding the similarities and differences in educational experiences.

 

For these reasons, Empire Justice strongly supports passage of A.7769/S.5799A this session.

 

 

This memorandum was prepared by:

Kirsten E. Keefe, Senior Attorney

518-935-2846

kkeefe@empirejustice.org

June 4, 2019

 

 


Memo of Support: New York must cap interest rates in auto retail installment contracts so working families can own reliable, affordable cars

Posted on June 4th, 2019

Memorandum of Support

New York must cap interest rates in auto retail installment contracts so working families can own reliable, affordable cars
A.7585 (Zebrowski)/S.5947 (Sanders)
“An act to amend the personal property law, in relation to limiting the amount of certain credit service charges in motor vehicle retail installment contracts.”

We recommend you view the PDF here.

Empire Justice Center strongly supports A.7585 (Zebrowski)/S.5947 (Sanders) because it will cap interest rates in auto retail installment contracts, reducing the ability of auto dealers to impose extremely costly and often unaffordable credit terms on low-income New Yorkers when they purchase new or used vehicles. The proposed cap is one reform that would help curb abusive practices in the subprime auto lending market.

A car is one of the largest assets that a typical person will ever own, second only to a home. In areas without extensive, reliable public transportation, like upstate New York and rural areas, a consumer must have a car in order to get or keep a job, attend medical and other appointments, and fulfill family responsibilities. Most people who buy cars take out loans to do so, often directly from the dealer (retail installment contracts). Over a quarter of all car loans are subprime loans, made to borrowers considered to be risky based on their credit history. Subprime borrowers are often desperate to obtain financing to purchase a vehicle.

In Rochester New York, Empire Justice Center staff members have heard from local consumer advocates that communities of color are targeted for disparate pricing of subprime loans for used cars. Borrowers of color, with the same credit scores as their white counterparts, pay higher interest rates, even when debt to income and other characteristics of the borrowers and the loan are the same.

Subprime car loans routinely reach interest rates as high as 24.99%, just under New York’s criminal usury cap. At rates that high, consumers can end up paying more in interest than the cost of the car. With the most expensive loans being made to the people least able to afford them, the default rates on these subprime car loans are especially high. Car loan defaults are currently reaching record numbers. Almost 10% of subprime loans are in default, compared to the overall default rate for all car loans of around 1%. Buy Here, Pay Here dealerships, which focus particularly on the subprime market, have default rates of around 25%. As a result of these high-cost loans leading to high default rates, the same often defective used cars are repeatedly repossessed and flipped, with the sellers pocketing consumers’ down payments and trade-ins and even suing the consumers for the unpaid loan balance while meanwhile reselling the car and beginning the cycle again with a new consumer. The repossessions appear on consumers’ credit reports, making it even more difficult for them to obtain reasonably priced credit.

New York has been a leader among states in consumer protections against abusive financial services and products, prohibiting predatory mortgages, high-cost check-cashing, and payday lending. In particular, New York has long had among the country’s strictest usury laws, imposing a 16% civil cap on interest rates. As a result, New York consumers have been protected from abusive products such as payday loans, which enmesh consumers in an inescapable cycle of debt. Unfortunately, New York law lags when it comes to protecting consumers when they purchase cars on credit, because here practices have been allowed to flourish that can result in a similarly inescapable debt cycle.

Although New York courts have exempted most car loans from New York’s general civil usury cap based on an archaic rule called the “time price doctrine,” for decades the Legislature protected New Yorkers from predatory, high-cost lending by including interest-rate caps directly in the Motor Vehicle Retail Installment Sales Act. Those caps were removed in 1994 as part of an omnibus financial deregulation package, leaving the less protective 25% criminal usury rate as the only limit on these loans. Until the repeal in 1994, New York imposed caps of 7% on new car financing and up to 13% for used car loans.

A.7585/S.5947 would restore the balance that existed for decades before the 1994 financial deregulation by reinserting interest-rate caps directly into the Motor Vehicle Retail Installment Sales Act and subjecting car loans to the already high enough 16% rate that applies to other New York lending. Therefore, Empire Justice supports this bill.

This memorandum was prepared by:
Barbara Van Kerkhove, Ph.D.
Researcher/Policy Analyst
585-295-5815
bvankerkhove@empirejustice.org
June 4, 2019


Memo in Support: Child Care Subsidies for Parents who Work the Night Shift

Posted on May 31st, 2019

Memorandum of Support

Child Care Subsidies for Parents who Work the Night Shift
A.413A (Jaffee)/S.3420 (Savino)

We recommend you view the PDF here.

Parents who work nights often need child care so that they can sleep during the day if their children are young and not in school. Regulations currently permit, but do not require, social services districts to provide a child care subsidy to financially eligible parents and caretakers who work second or third shifts and need child care for their young children in order to sleep. Forty-seven out of fifty-eight social services districts do exercise this option and provide subsidized daytime child care for parents who need to sleep. For those living in the 10 social services districts that do not provide this option, life can be very difficult, as sleep deprived parents and caregivers juggle their need to sleep with caring for a young child.

Even among the districts that provide this benefit, the local rules vary among districts. The majority of the districts, 32 in total, will fund up to 8 hours of subsidized child care for a parent who works second or third shift and needs to sleep during the day. Three districts, Steuben, Suffolk and Sullivan, provide sleep care for less than six hours a night. An additional 10 districts pay for six hours of sleep care. Westchester and Chautauqua Counties provide a child care subsidy for seven hours of sleep care. This bill would require all districts to authorize up to 8 hours of care when such care is necessary for a working parent with a small child to sleep.

This bill, which passed the Senate on May 30, 2019, will assure that low income parents with young children who work the night shift and need child care to get adequate sleep will be able to do so regardless of where they live.

Empire Justice Center strongly supports passage of this bill.

This memorandum was prepared by:
Susan Antos, Esq.
518-935-2845
santos@empirejustice.org

May 31, 2019

1 18 NYCRR § 415.4(c)(3).
2 The social services districts that do not authorize care for parents who work the night shift and who need care so that they can sleep during the day because they have young children are Chenango, Clinton, Erie, Genesee, Hamilton, Nassau, New York City, Niagara, Saratoga and Wyoming.
3 These districts are Columbia, Fulton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Monroe, Seneca, St. Lawrence, Tioga, Ulster and Warren.