FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Dondi Quintans
March 6, 2023 New York, NY – On the heels of Mayor Eric Adams signing into law New York City’s first-ever coerced debt bill, a broad coalition of anti-violence groups called on the New York State Legislature to follow the City’s lead by passing bill S.2278/A.1309 this session. The State legislation, which is sponsored by Senator Cordelle Cleare and Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, would provide desperately needed legal relief to survivors of economic abuse and coerced debt.
The New York City law, which was sponsored by Council Member Justin Brannan and championed by Council Member Tiffany Cabán, includes economic abuse in the legal definition of domestic violence extends existing protections for domestic violence survivors to those who have experienced economic abuse, including coerced debt.
“Mayor Adams signature of this bill represents a watershed moment in the effort to achieve economic justice for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence. Today we recognize the hard reality survivors have faced for years: there is little safety without economic security. This legislation will help survivors achieve financial independence, and URI is grateful to Council Members Brannan and Cabán for pushing this legislation over the finish line. It is vital that we continue the work until New York State provides survivors with access to meaningful legal relief from coerced debt,” said Nathaniel M. Fields, CEO of Urban Resource Institute.
“New Yorkers should take pride in our history of standing up for survivors of domestic violence. Survivors often need support to get out of these abusive and sometimes violent situations and sustainably reclaim their lives. I’m proud to help expand the existing protections to survivors of economic and financial abuse. Economic abuse has always been a quiet and insidious form of domestic violence, even if government has historically missed the memo. This type of abuse occurs in almost every abusive relationship and is the number one reason victims stay in or return to abusive relationships. Now our laws, protections, and programs can catch up to what’s actually going on in so many of these situations,” said Council Member Justin Brannan, Chair of the Finance Committee and the bill’s lead sponsor.
“Domestic violence is among the leading causes of homelessness in New York: approximately 41% of people in shelter fled domestic violence. Domestic violence is a critical racial and gender justice issue as women of color are disproportionately impacted by it. And it is also an economic justice issue – nearly every single survivor of domestic violence has experienced economic abuse, yet until today, survivors have had no legal recourse to get out from under coerced debt economic abuse. As the Chair of the Committee on Women and Gender Equity, I was honored to help shepherd this legislation forward and proud to have passed the #SupportSurvivors bill package, which recognizes that economic empowerment is a key pathway to safety. It is vital that we continue dismantling systems of oppression that keep people locked in unsafe cycles of poverty,” said Council Member Tiffany Cabán, Chair of the Women and Gender Equity Committee.
Economic abuse occurs when one person uses tactics of power and control to restrain or sabotage another person’s ability to acquire, use or maintain economic resources to which they are entitled. Coerced debt, one type of economic abuse, is defined as debt that was incurred as a result of fraud, duress, intimidation, coercion, threat, force, manipulation, undue influence, or the non-consensual use of the debtor’s personal information. For example, an abuser or a person who causes harm may threaten to hurt the survivor, their children, friends, family members, or pets if they do not open a credit card in their name and allow the person access to using it.
A full 98% of all survivors of domestic or gender-based violence report that they have experienced some level of economic abuse, with a majority listing it as among the primary reasons that they stay in or return to an abusive situation. Economic justice is foundational to a safe, sustainable future for those escaping abuse.
State bill S.2278/A.1309 would provide survivors with a legal means to discharge a debt that is proven to have been coerced. It would also ensure that any negative credit reporting is removed from a survivor’s credit report and allow the creditor to recover the debt from the person who actually accrued it, while protecting the identity of the survivor.
“Economic abuse is pervasive, and its impact is often devastating for survivors. Economic abuse or coerced debt often results in a survivor being saddled with insurmountable debt, which can lead to an inability to obtain housing, feeling emotionally overwhelmed and alone. This legislation is a start to recognizing the hard reality faced by nearly all survivors and begins to provide them with the tools they need to move forward. Thank you to Council Member Brannan for working on this important issue, and to Council Member Cabán for her partnership and leadership,” said Teal Inzunza, Program Director of URI’s Economic Empowerment Program. “The State must follow the City’s lead and pass bill A.1309/S.2278 to provide survivors of economic abuse with a legal means to discharge a coerced debt.”
“Economic abuse is a serious and harmful type of domestic violence that often goes unnoticed. However, with the signing of Intro 148-A into law, a crucial step has been taken towards ensuring that all survivors of domestic violence, regardless of the type, receive the necessary protection and support they deserve. This legislation provides direct access to the services that survivors of economic abuse need to recover and heal. The City Council has taken a strong stance against all forms of domestic violence and is actively working towards creating a safer and more supportive community for all New Yorkers. As a co-sponsor of this bill, I am proud of the progress we are making to combat domestic violence and provide survivors with the necessary services they require in a timely manner. Together, we can put an end to domestic violence and economic abuse. Let us work towards building a safer community for all New Yorkers,” said Council Member Farah Louis.
“We know economic abuses such as coerced debt, deception, fraud, or manipulation are common experiences for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence,” said Cecile Noel, Commissioner, NYC Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence. “We applaud Mayor Adams and the New York City Council for enacting Councilmember Justin Brannan’s bill to strengthen survivor protections by recognizing economic abuse as a form of domestic and gender-based violence in the City’s Human Rights Law. This legislation strengthens anti-discrimination protections for survivors experiencing financial hardships due to economic abuse and keeps them on the path to safety, healing and stability including long-term financial stability.”
“I am very encouraged by the enactment of Intro. 148-A which is landmark legislation that finally recognizes economic abuse as a form of domestic violence and extends existing protections for domestic violence survivors to those who have experienced economic abuse, including coerced debt. I hope that this year, the State Legislature will complement that City’s efforts by passing S.2278 which creates a private right of action for those who have been victimized by the means of coerced debt,” said Senator Cordell Cleare.
“I am thrilled to hear about the passage of New York City’s first-ever coerced debt bill, signed into law by Mayor Eric Adams,” said Stephanie McGraw, CEO and founder of W.A.R.M (We All Really Matter) “This is an incredibly important piece of legislation that provides legal relief to survivors of economic abuse and coerced debt. We urge the New York State Legislature to follow the City’s lead and pass bill S.2278/A.1309 this session. Survivors of domestic and gender-based violence desperately need access to meaningful legal relief from coerced debt. Economic abuse is a pervasive issue, and it is often devastating for survivors. This legislation is a vital step towards recognizing the hard reality that survivors have faced for years. We look forward to the state doing their part and passing the legislation, so that survivors can achieve financial independence and move forward with their lives.”
“It’s past time that we recognize that the pain inflicted on survivors of domestic violence is not always physical,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF – Manhattan), Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Housing. “Economic abuse has long been used to exert power and control over victims and thanks to Councilmembers Brannan and Councilmember Cabán, it will now be recognized as a form of domestic violence in New York City. In partnership with the Urban Resource Institute and many other advocates, I look forward to passing my state legislation that will provide legal recourse to victims of coerced debt, removing yet another obstacle that keeps many domestic violence survivors in a dangerous position.”
“Her Justice thanks CMs Caban, Brennan, and the Speaker for their roles in pushing important legislation forward. We are proud to stand with our coalition partners in celebration of the passage of INT 148, a New York City Council Bill to expand the Human Rights Law definition of domestic violence to include economic abuse. As family, matrimonial, and immigration attorneys, we witness the devastating and far-reaching impact of economic abuse on our clients and their children. Because of the key role economic justice plays in securing futures for our clients, Her Justice has a long-standing commitment to ensuring that the consequences of economic abuse are addressed by our legal systems. As the first legal definition of economic abuse in New York, INT 148 is an important step in that direction.”
# # #
About Urban Resource Institute:
Urban Resource Institute (URI) transforms the lives of domestic violence survivors and homeless families by empowering individuals, families, and communities, particularly communities of color and other vulnerable populations, to end cycles of domestic violence, homelessness, poverty, and trauma by increasing safety and resiliency. As the largest provider of domestic violence shelter services in the US and a leading provider of homeless services, URI’s programs impact more than 40,000 individuals annually through prevention, intervention, education, and direct services in both residential and non-residential settings in New York. URI is recognized as a thought-leader with influence across the U.S. and beyond. For more information, visit www.urinyc.org or follow on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
If you or someone you know needs immediate assistance, call NYC’s 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-621-HOPE or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.