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Reflections & Renewal

August 1, 2006

Author: Anne Erickson

It has been almost one year since we last published the Legal Services Journal (LSJ).  With all the uncertainties of funding and the need to scale back and re-group we had to let the Journal go.  Driven by grants, as so many of us are, some of the core services we provided – the LSJ, the Welfare Task Force, more frequent Domestic Violence Task Force meetings, the needed redesign of our website navigation were all put on hold.  While we are proud – and amazed – of what we’ve been able to maintain, we also felt a certain lacking in our services as we continued to re-group after such devastating losses.

But here we are – and here we hope to stay – ten years after the Gingrich Revolution brought the end of Federal funding for support services, the restrictions on local services and the massive devolution of our country’s most basic safety net and with it, the most fundamental changes in our country’s approach to immigrants we have ever seen in our lifetimes.  Our services were cut and curtailed just as our client communities needed us most.

Here we are, five years after a new IOLA Board started cutting and then eliminated all funding for our support services.  Here we are, not only surviving as a community, but in many instances thriving.  Yes, we’ve had to step back, re-think our strategies, re-kindle our hope, but we’ve also re-doubled our efforts.  We’ve seen our colleagues tap new sources of support and funding.  We’ve seen the New York State Bar Association, and with it many local bars, reassert their support for our programs and for the delivery of legal services.  We’ve watched – and we’ve joined and helped lead where we could – this amazing community desperately turn disaster into opportunity and turn outside attacks into united collaboration.  For us, our most basic collaboration was our “merger” – our blending of GULP and PILOR into the Empire Justice Center.  We have, if you will – “emerged from the merger,” stronger, deeper, richer and ready once again to serve with passion to the mission.  So we are pleased and honored and relieved to once again offer the Legal Services Journal to you as testimony – not only to our staying power but to the inherent power of the community we serve.

In this edition you will read about our expanded legislative agenda, which with the blending of  PILOR’s staff brought us deeper into consumer law.  You’ll get a sense of the newly proposed Federal regulations on public assistance, long a critical area of our work.  With this issue, we keep everyone informed about proposed changes to the regulations that drive our state’s public benefits systems and we bring you an overview of the changes in Federal policy we secured to help bridge the divide between SSI regulations and their adverse, if unintended, impact on victims of domestic violence.

It’s been a long, strange and at times painful road we’ve walked these last few years.  From days of sheer terror when we thought we would never survive, (for the first time in GULP/PILOR history we were in debt and tapping our line of credit to make payroll), to this hot and muggy July when we are back in the black and planning ways to re-connect with our colleagues.  We have stayed focused on the needs of the Legal Services Community and those we all serve.

And we survived. 


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