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Empire Justice Center 2016 State Policy Priorities

Focusing on the Foundation: Building Social and Economic Justice for New York

January 27, 2016

Across the globe, New York shines as a beacon of justice, opportunity, and prosperity.  All those who live here should be afforded the ability to pursue these ideals and make them a reality.  Empire Justice Center's State Policy Agenda focuses on the basic needs and rights that make up the foundation of prosperity for our state. 

Shelter, heat, food, economic stability.  Health and home care, fair wages, freedom from discrimination.  Our 2016 Policy Priorities are meant to highlight several of the most important ways New York State can recommit to providing a strong foundation on which all New York families have the opportunity to build toward the American Dream, right here in our state.

Click here for a pdf of our three part agenda.

Empire Justice Center 2016 State Budget Priorities

Click here for a pdf of our State Budget Priorities.

COMMUNITY HEALTH ADVOCATES (CHA): Provide New York consumers assistance with the challenges they encounter after enrolling in health insurance coverage – provide CHA with $5.5 million in the Department of Health budget.

MANAGED CARE CONSUMER ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (MCCAP): Low income senior citizens and people with disabilities often need help when they encounter problems with Medicare and related programs.  MCCAP provides this critical assistance, while reducing out of pocket costs and maximizing federal prescription drug benefits.  Fund MCCAP at $1,962,000 in the Office for the Aging budget. 

HEALTH CARE FOR IMMIGRANTS: It is to everyone’s benefit that all New Yorkers have health coverage, and New York has made huge strides forward.  However some key populations remain uncovered. As a first step, New York should invest $10.3 million to expand the Healthcare Marketplace’s Essential Plan to cover the approximately 5,500 low income immigrants who are excluded from affordable health coverage when their incomes are just above the Medicaid level.

CIVIL LEGAL SERVICES: Equal access to justice is a core value of our democracy and essential to honoring the rule of law.  Help expand and stabilize the delivery of quality civil legal assistance by supporting the Office of Court Administration Budget’s proposed investment and restoring Legislative Funding for civil legal services.

CHILD CARE: Knowing their child is in a safe, nurturing and enriching place allows parents to focus on their jobs.  For low income parents this peace of mind often requires access to child care assistance. Effective this year, federal law governing child care subsidies requires states to implement significant new health and safety requirements, and makes major changes in program eligibility. To maintain subsidies to those currently receiving them, New York should provide OCFS with an additional $190 million: $90 million for implementation of the new federally mandated health and safety requirements, and $100 million for implementation new federal programmatic requirements. 

DISABLITY ADVOCACY PROGRAM (DAP): This program assists low income disabled New Yorkers access federal disability benefits, helping to stabilize their lives and their income.  As a bonus, New York's state and local governments also share the more than $1 billion in federal dollars leveraged over the history of the program.  To continue to grow this successful program, invest a total of $8.26 million in the OTDA budget.

HOMELESSNESS PREVENTION: Avert homelessness and improve opportunities for success for welfare recipients by addressing the acute inadequacies of the shelter and fuel for heating allowances.  Increase shelter allowances to 50% of the HUD Fair Market Rent and double the fuel allowance, which has not been increased in 28 years.

FORECLOSURE PREVENTION AND MITIGATION: Provide New York’s communities with resources to create a Community Restoration Fund using bank settlement dollars targeted for foreclosure prevention and neighborhood stabilization, and provide funding for the Mortgage Assistance Program to continue to make loans that allow homeowners to avoid foreclosure.

Empire Justice Center 2016 State Legislative Priorities

Click here for a pdf of our State Legislative Priorities.

ECONOMIC STABILITY: Support low income New Yorkers in their efforts to escape poverty by joining the eight states that have embraced savings and efficiency through the elimination of asset tests for public assistance.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PREVENTION: Protect crime and domestic violence victims from nuisance ordinances that undermine their ability to call 911 for help for fear of losing their housing.  Pass A.1322/S.4955.

CIVIL RIGHTS: Continue on the path of expanding the legal rights and protections of transgender and gender nonconforming New Yorkers, including, but not limited to passage of the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act (GENDA) (A.4558/S.61).

DISABILITY RIGHTS: Address inadequacies and barriers in public assistance programs - particularly for those who are disabled - through better disability screening and work supports.

WAGE JUSTICE: Create tools that strengthen workers’ ability to collect unpaid wages and improve enforcement mechanisms for wage and hour laws by passing Securing Wages Earned Against Theft (SWEAT) legislation (A.5501/S.2232).

FORECLOSURE PREVENTION: Continue to develop tools that will enable New York Communities to recover from the foreclosure crisis by passing the Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act (A.6932/S.4781) as a way to address problems with vacant and abandoned properties and zombie foreclosures, and advancing legislation to improve consumer protections in foreclosure.

HEALTH CARE ACCESS: People with disabilities should have the right to choose to remain in their home.  Home care services are essential to supporting that choice.  Unfortunately, many New Yorkers experience barriers to accessing the home care they need through Medicaid and Managed Long Term Care because managed care organizations are not providing the necessary services.  New York must act quickly to provide increased oversight to ensure that people’s rights and needs are being respected.

Empire Justice Center 2016 State Administrative Priorities

Click here for our State Administrative Priorities.

All agencies:

Everyone should be able to communicate with their government effectively.  Executive Order 26 requires executive agencies to develop and implement language access policies and provides a good framework for ensuring that this happens.  New York must continue to work to implement that Executive Order to ensure that all government agencies provide meaningful language access in all essential areas.

Department of Health:

New Yorkers are experiencing barriers to accessing the home care they need through Medicaid, including Managed Long Term Care.  New York must act quickly to address these problems (see Empire Justice Center 2016 State Legislative Priorities).

The Essential Plan is an important component of New York’s health care system that will provide affordable health coverage for people who are caught in the gap between not being eligible for Medicaid and not being able to afford private insurance through the New York State of Health Marketplace, despite subsidies.  As the Essential Plan is implemented, New York must make certain that it includes adequate consumer protections and that special populations retain previous rights and coverage.

Having a strong, efficient and fair Marketplace is a win-win for New York and for New York consumers.  To keep strengthening and improving the Marketplace, the state must continue to work with advocates to develop the strongest possible consumer protections.  

Office of Children and Family Services

New York must ensure that special needs children are being adequately served under the law.  To do so, the state must revise its child care special needs policies and integrate special needs programs that are administered by multiple agencies.

Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance

The practices used to accuse low income New Yorkers receiving public assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP), or child care of fraud must include basic due process protections, including advance and written notice describing the charges against them, notification of their legal rights, and time to consult with an attorney. 

Many SNAP recipients without children may lose benefits as early as April 2016 due to the harsh federal "time limit" rule.  New York should review the regulations impacting these individuals to ensure that they are up to date and allow the broadest possible use of exemptions and robust range of countable work activities to support continued participation in SNAP.

Every opportunity should be taken to ensure that as many New Yorkers as possible are able to access the nutritional assistance the SNAP program provides.  New York should utilize additional opportunities to provide SNAP to low income New Yorkers who are currently not participating, including low income college students, certain Cuban-Haitian entrants, and working families whose incomes fall between 130-150% of the Federal Poverty Level.


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