In October 2015, the federal court in the Southern District of New York approved a landmark settlement secured by the firm in conjunction with the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ). The work was conducted as part of the firm’s Barbara McDowell High Impact Pro Bono Initiative.
The settlement required New York City and State agencies to begin providing information about Food Stamps and Medicaid in a variety of alternate formats accessible to low-income persons who are blind or visually impaired. The City and State agencies’ previous failure to provide independent and meaningful access to this information imposed significant hardships upon some of New York City’s most vulnerable citizens.
The Consent Decree approved by the court followed lengthy and complex negotiations with the New York City Human Resources Administration, the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), and the New York State Department of Health (DOH). As part of the Decree, NCLEJ now receives quarterly reporting from the City and State agencies listing the numbers of individuals in the plaintiff class making alternate format requests, and the types of formats they request to access public benefit documents.
This reporting demonstrates the significant impact of the Rafferty settlement. To date, OTDA has reported that: 2,202 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) clients have requested and received eligibility documents converted into one of the four alternate formats; and 377 clients have requested and received administrative fair hearing documents converted into one of the alternate formats.
DOH has reported that 1,985 Medicaid clients have requested and received eligibility documents converted into one of the four alternate formats.
These numbers validate the need for the relief and demonstrate the importance of pro bono public interest work in fighting systemic injustice.