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Policy Matters April 2012


Welcome to Policy Matters, Empire Justice Center’s newsletter focused solely on policy. 

Through this newsletter we will share information about the policy issues our staff are working on and alert you to opportunities to get involved at the state, local and federal levels to help improve the way the law impacts low income and vulnerable New Yorkers.

This inaugural issue will focus on the recently passed state budget and how it will affect lower income New Yorkers, including people at risk of foreclosure, health care consumers, people with disabilities and those needing civil legal services.

The NYS Budget: A vast improvement over last year.

The 2012-13 budget agreement left some critical issues unaddressed. However, from Empire Justice Center’s perspective, it was a successful year for issues impacting low income New Yorkers. Here’s our quick summary, with links to more detailed information.

Improved Access to Health Care:
This year’s budget included a number of important advances for low-income health care consumers, including seniors and individuals who are disabled.  There were also two notable disappointments, one of which was addressed by the Governor through Executive Order post budget!  Click here to read our new analysis of the Governor’s Executive Order allowing the Health Insurance Exchange to move forward, and here to read more about the victories and disappointment of charity care reform being left out of the final deal.

Increase in Funding for the Disability Advocacy Program: Good news! 
For the first time in a decade, the Disability Advocacy Program (DAP), which helps disabled individuals access federal SSI/SSD benefits, received an increase- not a cut- in the budget.  Read more about DAP.

An Increase for Child Care but a Net Loss Overall:
After the dust settled on budget negotiations, the state legislature added nearly $3.6 million for child care to the executive proposal.  This is a small victory, however, in light of the $16.6 million overall loss of funding compared to 2011-12.  Click here to see our table cataloguing the funding cuts, and here for more details as well as a cost neutral proposal that would make more child care available to low income working parents.

Funding for Advocates to Save Homes from Foreclosure: 
In this historic agreement, the Governor, Legislature and Attorney General collaboratively restored $9 million to ensure the continuation of the Foreclosure Prevention Services Program.  Read more on how this agreement happened.

Overall Increase in Funding for Civil Legal Services:
As New York continues its struggle back to economic stability, low income New Yorkers’ need for legal assistance has only intensified, leaving at least 80% of their legal needs unmet.  Click here to read how the budget increased resources for civil legal assistance.

And Last but not Least, the Final Phase of the Welfare Grant Increase:
The budget fully restored the long-awaited final step of a multi-year increase in the welfare grant.  Click here to read about what this means for welfare recipients and why more needs to be done.

Ongoing Issues

Missed opportunity to target child care funds to preserve jobs:
Empire Justice worked closely with colleagues to support a cost neutral proposal that would make more child care available to low income working parents. This proposal unfortunately was not included in the final budget. Click here to read why and how we will continue to work to bring this proposal to fruition.

The Importance of Charity Care Reform:
As our work on charity care reform continues, read our recent report on barriers to accessing care for the uninsured on Long Island.