BayLegal’s Systems Advocacy During the Pandemic: An Overview and Update

Categories: Advocacy, eNewsletter Story, Homepage, News

Our expertise in advocating for clients’ individual legal needs while simultaneously identifying and pursuing opportunities for broader systemic change has been critical in response to the pandemic. I hope you will read more about our specific advocacy initiatives since the world changed in March 2020 and anticipated needs – it is because of your support that we are able to have this impact. Some of our significant advocacy initiatives since March, 2020, have included:

  • Stopping Eviction Proceedings: BayLegal was an early advocate for a pause to eviction proceedings, advocating directly with our local courts, counties, and statewide. We are proud of our role advocating for one of the strongest tenant protection ordinances in the country in Alameda County, which protects tenants through the end of the year. We also helped to secure county-level eviction moratoria in private housing and protections for public housing residents, while pushing for statewide Judicial Council policy in support of the pause in eviction proceedings. We continue to represent individual tenants, and preparing for the anticipated flood of evictions in the new year – empowering tenants with the tools to invoke and defend their rights, and continuing to advocate for systemic protections and solutions.
  • Stopping Consumer Debt Collection and Foreclosures: BayLegal and partners successfully advocated for statewide pause on consumer debt collection activities and foreclosures during the public health crisis and the Governor’s Executive Order barring debt collectors from seizing COVID-19 pandemic relief payments. We are continuing both our individual and systemic advocacy to address the vast issues of COVID-19 related debt collection so that this crisis does not result in decades of entrenched poverty, indebtedness and bad credit that will deny countless families access to housing, stability and future prosperity.
  • Access to Healthcare: Our advocates addressed increasing need and issues, including access for urgent non-COVID needs, denial of health insurance denial because of difficulties verifying documents, lost health insurance due to becoming unemployed, and maintaining Covered California coverage with fluctuating income. As the needs and demand continue to increase – the team is helping people access healthcare coverage at a time when they need it most.
  • Safe and Accessible Transit: BayLegal worked with the Financial Justice Project in San Francisco to successfully resolve transportation access issues and fare evasion citations our unhoused clients were receiving because they could not afford MUNI, and the process for a discounted/disabled pass imposed multiple barriers.
  • Preserving Affordable Housing: Our advocates worked in a coalition led by the National Housing Law Project to successfully oppose a proposed change to the Low Income Housing Tax Credit allocation plan by the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, which would have significantly decreased the number of units usable by our client population, who are heavy users of LIHTC affordable housing and many of whom have disabilities requiring accessible units. Testimony by the community led CTCAC staff to withdraw the proposed cuts to accessible housing, and even to revise the proposal to increase accessibility requirements to 15% in new construction (new proposal pending).
  • Safe and Accessible Courts and Legal Systems: BayLegal has been a leader raising concerns about safety and court access barriers and offering solutions to the Judicial Council and individual Superior Courts. As a regional anti-poverty law firm we quickly began identifying due process concerns and vast disparities from county to county, department to department, and courtroom to courtroom in access to remote appearances, assessment of fees and language access.  We are helping to lead a statewide working group of legal services providers who are documenting and advocating to redress the severe barriers and lack of uniformity in court access which disparately impacts low-income litigants, particularly tenants facing evictions.
  • Protections from Discrimination in Shelters: Several BayLegal attorneys from across several practice areas submitted public comment strongly opposing a proposed new HUD rule that would allow anti-transgender discrimination in shelter intake processes, increasing transgender individuals’ exposure to unsheltered homelessness during the pandemic.
  • Advocating against the Exorbitant Telecommunications Costs for Incarcerated Individuals: With a consortium of legal services, prisoner and civil rights groups we have been advocating that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors address the inflated cost of phone and video communications at Santa Rita Jail. The current pricing structure leaves many families facing a choice between necessities and regular communication with their incarcerated loved ones and threatens to undermine successful reentry.
  • Protecting Due Process for Immigrant Survivors of Violence: Our Immigration Team continues to represent individual survivors seeking immigration relief and navigating the continually changing immigration law landscape. The team also submitted comments opposing proposed Executive Office of Immigration Review rules that would dramatically alter the appellate process and strip important due process rights from noncitizens with immediate relatives or asylum eligibility.
  • Accessible and Representative Misdemeanor Juries in Alameda County: BayLegal urged the Alameda County Superior Court to reconsider its plan to eliminate local jury panels and to institute county-wide jury pools for misdemeanor trials. Traveling across-county to serve on a jury is a tremendous hardship for low-income people, particularly those with disabilities and during the pandemic, and will result in juries that do not reflect the community and have a disparate impact on low-income communities of color.
  • Protecting the Rights of Unhoused People in Oakland: This year we implemented a regional cross-practice Homelessness Taskforce bringing together our broad legal expertise and experience to focus on the housing crisis and homelessness. On October 16, BayLegal submitted public comment strongly opposing the City of Oakland’s proposed “Homeless Encampment Management Policy.” Implementation of the policy as written would result in unconstitutional seizures of property and denial of due process rights to those living unsheltered in Oakland. It would needlessly increase policing, accelerate the criminalization of poverty, and unlawfully punish unsheltered people with no other place to go.

For further details on all of BayLegal’s recent advocacy, please visit our Advocacy page.