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Policy Matters July 2014


Welcome to Summer 2014!  We hope you are enjoying this beautiful weather.  Here at Empire Justice we are all very excited to see the end of another successful legislative session!  In fact, we are very pleased to report that we achieved 80% of our legislative priorities. This was due in large part to the hard work and dedication of our colleagues across the state as well as the efforts of the policy staff in all four of our offices.  We also want to thank those of you who responded to our calls to action and for your support of our policy work – we truly couldn’t do it without you!

Here are some highlights of what we have been working on lately, as well as details about the outcomes of some of our initiatives: 

Public Benefits
In December 2013, we released an extensive report entitled Don’t Lien on Me, dealing with New York’s archaic practice of placing mortgage liens on the homes of public assistance recipients.  We were thrilled to see the state recognize this troubling issue and call for a biennial accounting statement, ensuring that individuals are aware of the debt and know how to make payments.  The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance recently issued guidance to local social services districts about the first phase of this impending change.  We are hopeful this will bring increased transparency to the process.  We are also working on an update that outlines the new law and what to expect – so keep your eyes on our website for that!

In light of the recent positive changes in the law impacting access to education and training for public assistance recipients, Don Friedman, the Managing Attorney for our Long Island office, has penned an informative blog post highlighting the new law and its implications.  Be sure to check it out and share the information with others!

Child Care
During budget negotiations, we were pleased to see the state modify their policies to exclude teen earnings when calculating eligibility for a family’s child care subsidy.  Recently, the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) issued a memorandum to local social services districts regarding this policy change, which became effective July 1, 2014.

Child Support
In response to hearing from several legal services providers who have been seeing an alarming uptick in low income parents being saddled with onerous child support obligations, two of our public benefits attorneys wrote a blog post to offer guidance to providers and clients to help them navigate the process.

Domestic Violence
In the last weeks of session, we were working hard to ensure passage of a bill that would protect domestic violence and crime victims from being unintentionally impacted by nuisance ordinances.  The goal was to ensure that no one is afraid to call the police for fear of eviction or loss of housing.  Unfortunately, the measure did not pass the Senate, but we are already regrouping and making plans to push ahead next session with renewed energy with our colleagues at the New York State Coalition Against Domestice Violence (NYSCADV) and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.
In our last Policy Matters, we reported on our work as a member of New Yorkers for Responsible Lending (NYRL), educating legislators about the critical need for an extension of mandatory settlement conferences for foreclosures in New York.  We are pleased to announce the bill passed both houses of the State Legislature and was signed by the Governor!  Check out our blog post that explains the significance of this legislation for homeowners across New York!

Civil Rights
Recently, there have been several policy advances in LGBT rights on both the state and national level.  Most notably, on the federal level, the Department of Labor has issued updated enforcement protocol and guidance to clarify that all federal non-discrimination laws apply to transgender individuals.  On a less positive note, we have joined our colleagues in the LGBT community in seeking an amended version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that will be fully inclusive and will not contain an overly broad religious exemption. 

Cross-Practice Policy Issues
It’s always exciting when policy issues arise that require collaboration between different substantive law practice groups within Empire Justice.  Most recently we have enjoyed collaborations between our Benefits and DV/LGBT practice groups, as we look at health issues impacting the LGBT community.  Currently, in cooperation with our advocacy colleagues across the state, we are examining barriers to New Yorkers’ access to necessary medical care for gender transition-related medical treatment.  We will keep you posted as this issue develops!

We are also very pleased to applaud the release of the State’s Interagency LGBT Task Force’s statewide strategy to reduce LGBT health disparities through enhanced data collection.  There are truly good things happening in this field!

The Rest of the Summer
As you can see, we are still busy, working on many different issues and preparing for the next legislative session.  We are currently developing our priorities for the state, local and federal levels.  Policy Matters will be on hiatus for the month of August, so in the meantime, please make sure to “Like” our Facebook page and visit our website to sign up to receive our latest blog posts via email so you can stay up to date on new developments as they unfold.  Until the next time...


Kristin and the Empire Justice Policy Team