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New bill would create a Civil Cause of Action to prove a debt was coerced and cease all collections activity related to it  

 

May 19, 2023 New York, NY – In the waning days of session, the Economic Justice for Survivors Collective is urging the New York State Senate and Assembly to move legislation to create a new cause of action empowering survivors of elder abuse and gender-based violence to legally discharge a debt that was coerced as a part of that abuse.

Bill S.2278/A.1309, which is sponsored by Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal and State Senator Cordell Cleare, was reported out of the Consumer Affairs Committees in both Houses this week and now heads to the Assembly Codes Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee.

98% of all survivors of domestic or gender-based violence report that they have experienced some level of economic abuse. Economic abuse can take many forms, including an abuser taking out credit or accumulating debt in a victim’s name without their consent or knowledge, preventing a partner from working or managing their finances, to name just a few.

The majority of survivors cite that economic abuse is the primary reason that they stay in or return to an abusive situation.

“This vital legislation will provide survivors with a legal means to discharge a debt that they did not consensually incur, but it is so much more than that. This legislation will help pave the pathway to safety and healing for countless survivors who are trapped in dangerous situations under mountains of debt accrued by their abusers that they know they will never be able to pay back,” said Teal Inzunza, Director of Economic Empowerment Programs at Urban Resource Institute. “I have seen many survivors over the years grapple with the hopelessness of coerced debt and have seen the profound and devastating effects that it can have on a survivor and their family.  I have seen survivors who have had to remain in homeless shelters because their credit was destroyed by their abuser and they aren’t able to secure housing as a result.  This legislation provides a glimmer of hope for survivors that they will truly be able to move forward with their lives in the way that they choose without being weighed down by coerced debt. “

“NYC Anti-Violence Project is optimistic about the progress that S.2278/A.1309 is making, and hopeful that these bills become law as soon as possible. LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of IPV are uniquely impacted by the systemic barriers to addressing economic abuse, including coerced debt, because their identities and relationships are systematically vilified and rendered invisible simply because of their sexuality and gender identity. Especially after the economic ravages of the Pandemic, these bills could not be more timely or more critically necessary for the well-being of our survivors,” said Aditi Bhattacharya, Deputy Director, Anti-Violence Project. 

“Safe Horizon supports S.2278/A.1309 because it would further uplift survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence and allow them to find safety and healing after their abuse. By addressing economic abuse, specifically by removing debt incurred by coercion through threats of violence from a survivor’s credit report, this legislation would establish a clear foundation from which a survivor can chart a path of upward economic mobility. We thank Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and Senator Cordell Cleare for championing this critical legislation and working to ensure economic justice for survivors. We urge both houses of the Legislature to pass S.2278/A.1309 this session, and for Governor Kathy Hochul to sign it into law,” said blair dorosh-walther, Program Manager of the Economic Empowerment Program at Safe Horizon.

“Since 2007, the Center for Survivor Agency and Justice has worked alongside survivors and advocates across the US to address the profound economic impacts of domestic violence. In our 2019 study, 70% of survivors reported that they had debt and 52% had experienced coerced debt. Coerced debt leads to an “economic ripple effect” on survivors, damaging their credit and creating long-term barriers to housing, employment, and other essential resources. By passing S.2278//A1309, the New York State legislature would join a rapidly growing movement of states across the nation, including Maine, Texas, and California, who have adopted coerced debt protections.  Such an advance also would be in alignment with the newly Reauthorized Federal Violence Against Women Act, which expands protections to survivors of economic abuse. The time is ripe for New York State to address this systemic issue, so that survivors can access the economic resources needed for their physical safety,” Erika Sussman, Founder and Executive Director, Center for Survivor Agency and Justice.

“For the past thirty years, Her Justice has delivered free legal services to women living in poverty in New York City in the areas of immigration, family, and matrimonial law. In furtherance of our commitment to systems change, Her Justice challenges the limits of the law to help our clients achieve safety and economic independence, particularly when it comes to liability for debts incurred through economic abuse. S.2278/A.1309 will provide the missing link needed to ensure meaningful economic justice for our clients,” said Naomi Young, Senior Staff Attorney, Her Justice. 

The Economic Justice for Survivors Collective advocates for economic justice for survivors of gender-based and domestic violence. It is composed of the following groups: Urban Resource Institute, Safe Horizon, CAMBA, The Legal Aid Society of New York, Anti-Violence Project, Her Justice

In addition to the EJSC, the bill is supported by a broad coalition of regionally diverse organizations including:

AARP-NY

Council Member Tiffany Cabán

New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NYSCADV)

NYLAG

SAGE

District Council 37 Municipal Employees Legal Services

Violence Intervention Program

Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation

Sakhi for South Asian Women

Sanctuary for Families

Consumer Reports

New Yorkers for Responsible Lending

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Tansgender Community Center

Hope’s Door

Survivor Advocacy Center of the Finger Lakes

Close Rosies

The Legal Aid Society Queens Neighborhood Office

UnLocal

Aminta Kilwan-Narine, Founder & Executive Director, South Queens Women’s March

Restore NYC

Donna Dougherty, JASALSEJ

Access Justice Brooklyn

New Destiny Housing

Queens Volunteer Lawyers Project, Inc.

Project Guardianship

Domestic Violence Project at Urban Justice Center

Center for Safety and Change

Womankind

The Korean American Family Service Center

Center for Elder Law & Justice

Volunteer Lawyers Project of CNY, Inc.

Voices of Women

Shalom Taskforce

HELP R.O.A.D.S

Jahajee Sister

Fearless! Hudson Valley, Inc.

Fordham Law School – Feerick Center for Social Justice

Allen Women’s Resource Center

Dr. Rosanna Bellini, Director of Research at Clinic to End Tech Abuse

Professor Gina M. Calabrese, Consumer Justice Attorney, Litigation Clinic, St. John’s University School of Law

Ann Goldweber, Professor of Clinical Education, Director, Consumer Justice for Elderly, Litigation Clinic, St. John;s University School of Law

 

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.

 

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