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Policy Matters April 2015: Spring has Finally Sprung


April 2015: Spring has Finally Sprung

Happy Spring!  We hope the recent cold front is gone for good, and look forward to springtime weather!  Here are highlights of what’s been going on with our policy work over the past few weeks. 

Civil Rights

  1. Great news!!!  Our 8 year old client, Devyn Pereira, received a favorable ruling from the US Department of Justice regarding her service dog complaint!  We are super thrilled that Devyn will be afforded reasonable accommodations and allowed to handle her service dog, Hannah.  We are troubled, though, by recent news developments that suggest the Gates-Chili School District does not agree with the recent rulings. We will keep you posted, as events unfold.
  2. A 2013 study found that in New York, 11,600 transgender people have lost a job, 21,500 were not hired for a job, and 4,600 were evicted due to transgender bias.  Now is the time for the New York State Legislature to pass GENDA in order to stop discrimination against LGBT New Yorkers!

Domestic Violence

  1. Domestic violence victims, or any other crime victim, should not be afraid to dial 911 for fear of jeopardizing their housing.  We are glad the Assembly agrees, passing legislation last week stating so - and with a unanimous vote!  Now that the bill has been introduced in the Senate, we march onward to passage by the end of session!
  2. Also, make sure to check out the recent updates to our brochure for immigrants with limited English proficiency who are victims of domestic violence.  Now available in 6 different languages, feel free to download today!
  3. This week we participated in the 2015 Legislative Advocacy Day, held by the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and in the 2015 Equality and Justice Day, led by the Empire State Pride Agenda.

Wage Theft

  1. Deciphering the law can be difficult, especially when legislators keep making changes to it!  To help people understand the recent alterations to New York’s Labor Law, our wage theft attorney, Reena Arora, developed a user-friendly resource for advocates and workers.

Public Benefits

    Asset Test Client Image
  1. We love seeing our staff out in the community providing much needed information.  Many thanks to our own senior public benefits attorney, Saima Akhtar, who recently spoke at a community presentation about “Knowing Your Rights” as a public assistance recipient.
  2. Counter-intuitive policy: asset tests, when used in public assistance eligibility determinations, force people to deplete all of their resources, such as their car or savings accounts, before they become eligible.  Across the nation, 28 states, plus the District of Columbia, exempt at least one vehicle when making determinations for public assistance eligibility. Unfortunately, New York is not part of the growing trend of states eliminating asset tests.  Read our recent report, “Driven into Poverty: How New York's Asset Tests Keep People Poor” to learn how this policy undermines families and forces them deeper into poverty.


  1. Another holiday is here!!!  It’s our 2nd Annual DAP Thank You Day this week, as the statewide DAPWorks for New York campaign came back to Albany to thank state legislators for their help in securing an additional $2 million for the Disability Advocacy Program (DAP).  As advocates we believe it is important to show gratitude to our supporters!

Final Words...

Alas, we bid farewell to Michael Hanley, one of our long-time community development attorneys, who recently retired after being with us for the past 33 years.  Thank you, Mike, for your many years of service as a premier civil legal services advocate!

This is just a snapshot of what’s been going on - but please stay tuned for more as the session continues into June.  To “stay in the know” feel free to visit our Facebook page and our website for updates.

Talk with you soon!

The Empire Justice Policy Team