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Policy Matters October 2013


Dear Friends,

Happy Halloween everyone!!  October has been a busy month here at Empire Justice, where we’ve been working on a lot of great issues at both the state and the federal level.  Here’s a run down:

First, we’d like to note that tomorrow, November 1st we hit the Hunger Cliff.  We’ve been working hard to get the word out about the 5 percent across the board cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP- formerly known as food stamps) that will go into effect on November 1.  Last week, our Cathy Roberts appeared on Capital Tonight, a YNN political news show talking about it.  If you have questions about the cuts, here’s a great resource.

As you may have guessed, in addition to all of our administrative work leading up to October 1st, we were out talking about the launch of New York’s healthcare exchange in a number of forums. 

Also on October 1, we were proud to have several Empire Justice staff members participate in a tri-state “Civil Gideon” event hosted by the NYS Bar Association and 18 law schools.  Our Chief Counsel, Bryan Hetherington, participated on a prestigious panel following remarks from NYSBA president Dave Schraver and Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman – both were webcast to 18 law schools in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.  Then our CEO, Anne Erickson, and Senior Attorney Jonathan Feldman participated in follow up discussions at Albany and Cornell Law Schools, respectively.

On a less celebratory note, you have probably heard that Governor Cuomo vetoed the 60 day notice bill, which would have provided more notice to parents and child care providers about cuts to child care assistance.  While clearly disappointed, we are pleased that Governor Cuomo has recognized the problem of inadequate notice and has directed OCFS to craft a solution.  We hope to work with the administration and the bill sponsors, Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Senator Mark Grisanti in this endeavor.

Also on the child care front, we participated in two of three roundtables at the invitation of the Assembly Child Care Work Group.  The first focused on early learning as an economic development strategy; the second focused on access to child care and affordability.  The most recent roundtable looked at quality issues.

Gearing up for the state budget, we held our first meeting of the year with the DAPWorks for NY Campaign Steering Committee – looking forward to working with our wonderful Disability Advocacy Program advocates to seek additional funding for the great work they do for low income disabled New Yorkers!

And we are so excited to have released a new resource for domestic violence victims who are limited English proficient.  The brochure, available in four different languages including English and Spanish, explains how to access legal resources and what to expect in Family Court.  We did our initial roll-out of the pamphlet at the SEPA Mujer candlelight vigil in Central Islip, which educated people about the importance of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, where it was well received - we are having trouble keeping copies on hand!

On the federal level –

After carefully reviewing the proposed regulations, we signed onto a joint letter commenting on HUD’s proposed rule affirmatively furthering fair housing, in hopes of strengthening efforts to end housing discrimination and promote diverse, inclusive communities.

We also sent letters to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, urging them to confirm Representative Mel Watt as Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Our DAP advocates responded to another unfortunate and inaccurate story about SSI/SSD applicants and their attorneys by drafting a blog post that reached national readership.

And also on the DAP front, our DAP unit responded to the Social Security Administration’s request for comments on its reopening policies and rules of administrative finality.  In our comments, we noted that “the critical measure for assessing initiatives for achieving administrative efficiencies must be how they affect the very claimants and beneficiaries for whom the system exists.”

We’ll have more news next month, including our 2014 legislative agenda. You can stay up to date on our work via our website, liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter (@empirejustice).

Kristin and the Empire Justice Policy Team