Daily Coronavirus Update: New Pro Bono Initiative Helps Jobless New Yorkers Secure Unemployment Benefits

By Christian Nolan

April 27, 2020

Daily Coronavirus Update: New Pro Bono Initiative Helps Jobless New Yorkers Secure Unemployment Benefits


By Christian Nolan

Good evening Members,

New Yorkers who need help securing unemployment benefits through the appeal process will be matched with attorneys provided by the pro bono partnership launched by the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) and the state court system. Hundreds of lawyers are preparing to assist clients beginning this week.

A new innovative website, www.nysba.org/legalhelp, provides resources for filing an unemployment claim and will match attorneys – free of charge – with those whose claims are unsuccessful.

“Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are out of work due to the coronavirus, and we know that some of them will need help to obtain the unemployment benefits to which they are entitled,” said Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. “We are pleased to partner with NYSBA to offer this vital assistance and we thank all the generous lawyers who are giving of their time so selflessly.”

“This is an unprecedented moment for New York and the legal community alike,” said NYSBA President Hank Greenberg. “It’s gratifying to see so many lawyers willing to put their expertise at the disposal of those who are suffering. We know that unemployment benefits are a lifeline for many families, and we welcome the opportunity to provide assistance.”

The site provides guidance both on filing unemployment claims and how to find help if those claims are denied. Participants detail their Unemployment Insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims using an intake form. Once complete, NYSBA will use the intake software to match the participants with pro bono attorneys made available through an online portal of volunteers.

More than 26 million Americans – including over 1.4 million New Yorkers – have filed unemployment claims in recent weeks. More than 1,500 attorneys attended NYSBA’s recent training program, “Applying for Unemployment: Client Counseling Under the CARES Act.”

New York’s existing network of pro bono and public defense attorneys was strained prior to COVID-19. The state court system and NYSBA are taking this action to ensure that all New Yorkers can exercise their right to legal counsel at a time when the need for legal services will likely be higher than ever before, and fewer people will be able to afford representation.

While the pro bono network’s first task is handling unemployment benefits, it is quickly gearing up to also address a range of other issues – from evictions to domestic violence to job and housing discrimination.

Lawyers who are interested in joining this cause should go to https://nysba.org/covidvolunteer/to sign up. If you have specific questions about volunteering, please contact NYSBA via e-mail: [email protected].

For more information regarding the partnership: https://nysba.org/ny-state-court-system-joins-with-new-york-state-bar-association-to-launch-pro-bono-network-to-respond-to-pandemic/

Phased Reopening

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has begun outlining the general process of reopening New York beyond the current shutdown through May 15. Based on CDC recommendations, once a region experiences a 14-day decline in the hospitalization rate it may begin a phased re-opening.

The state is closely monitoring the hospitalization rate, the infection rate and the number of positive antibody tests, as well as the overall public health impact, and will adjust the plan and other decisions based on those indicators.

Phase one will include opening low risk construction and manufacturing functions and phase two will open certain industries based on priority and risk level. Businesses considered “more essential” with inherent low risks of infection in the workplace and to customers will be prioritized, followed by other businesses considered “less essential” or those that present a higher risk of infection spread. As the infection rate declines, the pace of reopening businesses will be increased.

There will be two weeks in between each phase to monitor the effects of the reopening and ensure hospitalization and infection rates are not increasing. The phased reopening will also be based on individual business and industry plans that include new measures to protect employees and consumers, make physical workspaces safer and implement processes that lower the risk of infection spreading. The state is consulting with local leaders in each region and industry to formulate these plans.

Chief Judge Provides COVID-19 Update

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said today that 168 court staff, including judges, have tested positive for COVID-19.

“More than half of them are members of our uniformed forces, underscoring the risks they face, and the courage they show, in reporting to work every day to keep our courts open,” said DiFiore.

Of the 168 court employees testing positive, 17 are reportedly judges. Two members of the bench in Brooklyn recently passed away from COVID-19 – Justices Noach Dear and Johnny Lee Baynes.

DiFiore also announced that in light of concerns expressed about self-represented litigants and the difficulties they face in accessing the virtual courts, they have put together a group headed by Judge Edwina Mendelson, deputy chief administrative judge for justice initiatives. The group will focus on solutions to promote access to the courts for pro se litigants and will report back with their recommendations soon.

Latest NYSBA.ORG Coronavirus News

We are adding new content each day to our website related to the coronavirus public health emergency and its impact on the legal community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an increasing number of people to think about estate planning, and many are reaching out to attorneys to prepare and execute the documents that spell out their final wishes. Click here to read about how to virtually execute an estate plan.

In case you missed it last week on Miranda Warnings, Domenick Napoletano (Brooklyn, NY) and June Castellano (Rochester, NY), co-chairs of the NYSBA Emergency Task Force for Solo and Small Firm Practitioners, talked about the work they’re doing to help lawyers impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis.



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