Archives

Written by Adam Jacobs

Jun 02

2020

DC Council Budget Hearing Highlights Need to Expand Access to Unemployment Benefits

Last week, Legal Aid joined the Claimant Advocacy Program, First Shift Justice Project, Neighborhood Legal Services Program, the Public Justice Advocacy Clinic at the George Washington University Law School, and Whitman-Walker Health, to submit testimony to the DC Council’s Committee on Labor & Workforce Development regarding significant access issues with the provision of unemployment benefits during the COVID emergency.

Since the beginning of the public health emergency, over 100,000 DC workers have applied for unemployment benefits. We appreciate the extensive efforts that DOES is taking to process this extraordinary number of claims. With businesses shut and families staying home, UI is often the only source of income to pay rent, buy food, and purchase other necessities. Read more →

Jun 01

2020

Legal Aid Will Do More, Do Better to End Anti-Black Racism

Again last night, thousands of protesters marched in the streets of the District, seeking justice and accountability in the wake of George Floyd’s senseless killing. Legal Aid stands in solidarity with those speaking out, demonstrating, and demanding a country and society that will treat every one of its residents with dignity and respect.

We are heartbroken, horrified, and outraged by Mr. Floyd’s death. It is an inexplicable loss that comes even as we are still mourning the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. In the long, sad shadow of earlier police shootings—of Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, John Crawford—and too many others to name. At a time when we are already so frustrated and angry to bear witness to the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately ravaging communities of color here in DC, just as it is doing across the country. And in an era when prominent political leaders repeatedly exploit racial division, bait protesters, and fan the flames of white supremacy.

Enough is enough. Read more →

May 22

2020

Recipes from a Socially-Distanced Kitchen

In this time of uncertainty, we have found ourselves living a “new normal”. However, in the midst of everyday challenges and changes, one thing is certain to remain the same: we have to eat!

For over 20 years, Legal Aid has had a strong social connection with food—specifically, a highly anticipated weekly tradition: Friday Treats. Every Friday morning, staff members gather together in the break room to enjoy delicious sweet and savory breakfast items brought in our coworkers. Friday Treats offers the opportunity for staff to mingle across units and learn more about one another on a personal level.

Read more →

May 19

2020

Legal Aid Practice Spotlight: Social Security Federal District Court Appeals

Mr. Hamm* spent much of his life working physically strenuous jobs, like laying pipes, loading trucks, and driving a fork lift. That is, until 2010 when he was the victim of a vicious assault. The attack left Mr. Hamm with a severely broken leg and unable to work. In early 2011, Mr. Hamm applied for Social Security Disability benefits. After two long years, and erroneous denials, Mr. Hamm finally got a chance at a hearing. The delay, unfortunately, is not uncommon for disability claimants. Read more →

May 18

2020

Legal Aid Mourns the Passing of Barbara Babcock, First Director of the D.C. Public Defender Service

Legal Aid was saddened to learn of the death of Barbara Babcock on April 18. Born in the District of Columbia, Professor Babcock was a tireless trailblazer who returned to the city of her birth after graduating from Yale Law School. She soon became the first director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. Viewing her success from across the country, Stanford Law School appointed her as the first woman on its regular faculty. While at Stanford, she encouraged more than one generation of lawyers to devote themselves to careers furthering the public interest. Read more →

May 15

2020

Recipes from a Socially-Distanced Kitchen

In this time of uncertainty, we have found ourselves living a “new normal”. However, in the midst of everyday challenges and changes, one thing is certain to remain the same: we have to eat!

For over 20 years, Legal Aid has had a strong social connection with food—specifically, a highly anticipated weekly tradition: Friday Treats. Every Friday morning, staff members gather together in the break room to enjoy delicious sweet and savory breakfast items brought in our coworkers. Friday Treats offers the opportunity for staff to mingle across units and learn more about one another on a personal level.

Read more →

May 14

2020

Language Access During COVID-19 at DOES and DHS

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented need for access to unemployment benefits and public benefits such as SNAP (known as “food stamps”) and TANF. With complicated application language and technological problems with the application systems, it can be incredibly difficult for anyone to navigate the process of applying, and even more difficult for applicants who need to apply in any language other than English. Read more →

May 13

2020

Rules Roundup: Supplemental Unemployment Benefits and Their Impact on Public Assistance Programs

An essential lifeline for DC residents and workers who are out of work due to COVID-19 is unemployment compensation. In the District, the unemployment compensation program is administered by the Department of Employment Services, or DOES. Standard unemployment is a longstanding program that provides 26 weeks of benefits to employees who lose a job or a substantial portion of their income through no fault of their own. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress put in place several important additional programs for workers as part of the CARES Act. One, called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PEUC, is an extension of the time period for which workers can receive benefits from 26 to 39 weeks. A second, called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, provides 39 weeks of benefits to gig workers, independent contractors, and other workers who are not eligible for standard unemployment benefits, and is the subject of an earlier post on this blog. Read more →

May 12

2020

Looking Beyond Outcomes: The Benefits of Enhancing Procedural Fairness Through Legal Representation

During this COVID-19 social isolation period, a vague routine at home has slowly emerged. I wake up before the rest of my family, make breakfast, and get the coffee started. Then I take a few moments to stare at what would normally be a bustling street full of morning commuters. The quiet emptiness of the sidewalks is startling and haunting. It is a daily visual reminder of the new world we suddenly find ourselves in. Inevitably, my mind shifts to the latest alarm bells in the news – the increasingly scary statistics, the waves of tragic stories, the frustration, the anger, the fear.

But finally (perhaps after the coffee has kicked in), I feel overwhelmed by gratitude, and a renewed appreciation that anything and everything could change in the blink of an eye. And in those moments, I find myself feeling thankful for my career – that I have spent most of it representing low-income folks who could otherwise not afford a lawyer. Read more →

May 08

2020

Potential Pool of Qualified Candidates for D.C. Judgeships Grows

On the very last day before Legal Aid switched to teleworking due to the COVID-19 crisis, we learned that the D.C. Judicial Nomination Commission amended its proposed rules to enlarge the pool of qualified candidates for D.C. judgeships in response to Legal Aid’s comments.

D.C. judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. By statute, an applicant must have been a D.C. resident for the 90 days preceding the nomination. It makes sense that D.C. judges should be D.C. residents: judges should be subject to the same laws that they interpret and apply to others. Yet requiring applicants to reside in D.C. before the President nominates them is not necessarily good policy. Many Maryland and Virginia residents have devoted their careers to practicing law in D.C. and would be among the best-qualified candidates to become D.C. judges. Read more →