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Policy Matters November 2015: It's All Happening


Thanksgiving is behind us and we had plenty to be grateful for here in the Policy Shop at Empire Justice Center.  We have some key victories to you get caught up on, many of which we’ve been working on for a long time.  There’s still more to be done, but not to worry, we’ll never quit, not until the law works for ALL New Yorkers.

Before we get started, here’s a link to our new Policy Coordinator job announcement We’re very excited to fill this important position, so please share until you feel like you can’t share anymore.  Deadline for applications is Friday, December 11.

Domestic Violence

The struggle to fix local nuisance ordinances had a victory this month!  Rochester City Councilmember Carla Palumbo submitted legislation that would fix the law in Rochester so that victims of domestic violence didn’t have to choose between calling for help and keeping their homes.  The law passed the Rochester City Council on November 17th and just needs to be signed into law by Mayor Lovely Warren.  We’re very proud of Amy Schwartz, who helped draft the proposed legislation.

Public Assistance

After decades of advocacy , both in the courtroom and in the halls of the state Capitol, a victory!  The Court of Appeals issued their decision in the Carver case.  The case argued that when you work as a condition of receiving public assistance, the minimum wage value of your work should count against the debt that is generated when you receive that public assistance.  The Court agreed, basically saying that work is work and should be valued as such, and that the workfare program falls under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.  Congratulations to Susan Antos and everyone who contributed to this effort! 

We submitted written testimony to the Assembly Committees on Aging and Social Services on how asset tests ar e bankrupting senior citizens applying for public benefits.  For more info on asset tests, check out our recent report Driven into Poverty: How New York's Asset Tests Keep People Poor.


The New York State Education Department issued school registration brochures in a whopping 12 languages!  These brochures are intended to walk people through the school enrollment process, which can be quite a tricky thing if English isn’t your first language.  NYSED wanted to, in particular, make sure that all of the unaccompanied kids fleeing Central and South America that have ended up in New York are able to get the education they’re entitled to here in New York.  It’s great to see NYSED responding to help the children who are seeking safe haven.

LGBT Rights

HUGE NEWS.  Governor Andrew Cuomo made a major move to protect the rights of transgender New Yorkers by proposing regulations clarifying the state’s Human Rights Law.  These vital protections are a massive step forward in the fight for equal rights.  Our LGBT Rights Project Staff Attorney Milo Primeaux talked about the new proposed rules on Capitol PressroomCOM ING SOON: a collaborative effort on how to submit comments to the state!


Crossover with LGBT Rights: Milo also submitted comments to the Office for Civil Rights on new proposed rules on nondiscrimination in health programs and activities.  Basically, these new rules would work to eliminate health disparities and ensure that all people – including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex people - and their families are free from discriminatory barriers when seeking health coverage.


A LERT: Health Republic is closing – if you’re auto-enrolled in Fidelis, you could lose vital reproductive health coverage.

Rep. Louise Slaughter stood up for New York veterans and consumers to make sure they’re protected from pay day loans.  Thank you Rep. Slaughter!

We are very proud of Amanda Doroshow, who traveled to Texas to provide pro bono legal assistance at an immigration detention facility.  In reality, these facilities are prisons for children and families, de nying people fundamental rights as human beings.

The New York State Office for Victims Services announced a new program to connect crime victims with legal services.

The Williams Institute released a report called Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Abuse among LGBT People.  It distills data and research going back to 1989 to show how prevalent intimate partner violence is in the LGBT community and how scarce quality services are, amongst other things.

Coming in early December: a new report on th e shelter and fuel for heating allowances outside of New York City.  Watch our Facebook page for updates and more info!

That’s it for now! 

The Policy Team at Empire Justice Center

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