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Policy Matters October 2015: The Only Constant is Change


It snowed this past weekend.  More in some areas than in others of course, but still – it snowed.  A part of us thought we would have more time to get ready for the winter, but here we are.  The seasons went ahead and changed without telling us, both outside and here in the Policy Shop at Empire Justice. 

And now the real change: Tamara Frazier, our incredible Manager for Policy & Government Relations, is leaving Empire Justice Center to work for the state of New York!  But not to worry - she’ll still be fighting alongside us to make the law work for ALL New Yorkers…

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Domestic Violence

Crossover with LGBT Rights: The NYS Office of Children and Family Services issued guidance re-affirming that residential and non-residential DV programs were not allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ victims of domestic violence.  Of course, we’ve been saying this for years, but it’s thrilling to see actual guidance issued.  Amy Schwartz is available for technical assistance and training on this issue.  Feel free to reach out to her! 

More Crossover with LGBT Rights: The NYS LGBTQ Intimate Partner Violence Network announced the launch of their DV Shelter Access Campaign!  The campaign aims to increase and improve access to shelter for LGBTQ people statewide.  Empire Justice is very proud to support and endorse this effort!

Did you know that, in some towns and cities around the state, nuisance ordinances are forcing domestic violence victims to choose between being evicted or calling for help?  Something that’s meant to keep communities safe is actually endangering them.  Check out this op-ed from Sandra Park at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.

Don’t forget that October is national Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  There’s still time to go purple and Shine the Light on Domestic Violence with the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence!

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Civil Legal Aid

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has been traveling around the state, hearing from businesses, private law firms, clients of civil legal aid programs and many others about how civil legal aid is a game changer when people face critical life challenges and need, but can’t afford a lawyer.  In his remarks in Syracuse he said, "There is clearly a crisis in access to justice, it threatens to throw people off a cliff in bad economic times."  The Chief Judge has championed funding for civil legal aid during his tenure, dramatically increasing access, but despite that, he reported at the hearing, only about one-third of people who can't afford a civil lawyer are provided one - legal services still are turning away more people than they can help.

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Public Assistance

Many times, when we talk about poverty, the images that we conjure in our minds are set in urban areas.  But in many rural areas, poverty is on the rise faster than in New York’s urban centers.  Check out this article from the Post-Star about poverty in Washington County.

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Child Care

Our intrepid senior attorney, Saima Akhtar, participated in the Assembly Workgroup on Child Care’s roundtable on the reauthorization of the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant.  New federal rules mean that New York State must contribute more funding in the early years of the new rules’ implementation or 21,000 children across the state could lose their child care slots.

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When buying a home - for the first time or the fifth time – it’s critical to be informed of your rights and your responsibilities.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its home loan toolkit.  All lenders must now provide this to borrowers when they’re in the process of purchasing a home. 

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Our very own Barbara Weiner was recently honored by The Legal Project with their Outstanding Service Award!  We are very, very proud to have Barbara, both as a friend and as a committed advocate.  The thing is, she was out of town!  Thankfully, Anne, our President & CEO, was there to accept the award.

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LGBT Rights

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released new rules that will allow patients to choose to disclose information on sexual orientation and gender identity.  This is a real and meaningful first step in being able to collect data on the LGBT community – which will help ensure that we can advocate for strong anti-discrimination protections, especially within the health care system.

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A huge THANK YOU and congratulations to US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for signing on as a co-sponsor of the SSI Restoration Bill (S.1387)!

Empire Justice is looking for a Chief Financial Officer!  Check out the job description – applications are due at close of business on Friday, November 6.

And finally, an INSIDER’S TIP: Keep an eye out for our 2016 Policy Priorities- we’re putting the final touches on them and hope to get them to you in November. 

That’s it for now! 

The Policy Team at Empire Justice Center

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