COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Updates
Because of the of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic, courts, agencies and other governmental agencies have made many temporary changes to their policies and procedures. This informational post is part of a series put together by Neighborhood Legal Services to keep you informed of these changes. Neighborhood Legal Services will update these informational posts regularly.
If you have questions about any of the below, please contact Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc. If you live in Erie or Niagara county, call (716) 847-0650. If you live in Genesee, Wyoming or Orleans county, call (585) 343-5450. Neighborhood Legal Services (NLS) is not able to accept walk-in clients at this time. If you need help, please do not come to our office. Our reception staff will answer your calls and connect you with an NLS advocate who can help you with your legal problem.
HAS ANYTHING CHANGED DURING THE COVID-19 EMERGENCY?
Yes. Most fair hearings (until at least September 12, 2020) will be held by telephone, video, or other remote means. If you still want to go in person, you can ask for an in person hearing by calling the State Office of Administrative Hearings at (518) 474-8781 or 1 (800) 342-3334 (toll free). You should be ready to explain how you are harmed by a telephone hearing (for example, you don’t have a phone or a phone with only limited minutes or there is an issue about whether you can work and you think the Administrative Law Judge needs to be able to see you to show you have that disability).
What will happen on the day of the hearing?
The Administrative Law Judge will call you on the date of your scheduled hearing. If your hearing is in the morning, make sure you are available to answer the phone between 9AM and 12PM. If your hearing is in the afternoon, be available from 1PM to 5PM. If the Administrative Law Judge cannot reach you, your hearing will be rescheduled for a later date. Please remember that the phone call may show up as “blocked” or “unknown,” so answer your phone during those times.
Can I still get the evidence packet before the hearing?
You still have a right to get a copy of the Department of Social Services’ evidence packet before your hearing. You should request the packet directly from your worker after you request the hearing. You should also make sure your worker has a reliable mailing address, because they are mailing packets to your address of record. If you have moved or do not have a reliable mailing address, contact your worker to make other arrangements. If you have not received the packet by the hearing, you should ask the Administrative Law Judge for an adjournment so the worker can send you the packet. If you got the packet but you did not have enough time to review it, you should tell the Administrative Law Judge.
Can I still submit my own documents?
You still have the right to provide your own evidence and to have witnesses
testify at your hearing. Make sure any witnesses are available during the morning/afternoon of your hearing so the Administrative Law Judge can call them. You can send documents to the state before the hearing and they can send it to the assigned ALJ. However, it is best to keep electronic copies (if you can) because you may have to email them during the hearing if the Administrative Law Judge did not get them. Documents can be sent by email or by fax (OTDA.SM.FHDocuments.submission@OTDA.NY.GOV and (518) 473-6735). Make sure you include your Fair Hearing number (listed on your scheduling notice).
If you are not able to submit the evidence because you cannot access email or a fax machine, the Administrative Law Judge should make other arrangements with you at your hearing. If an Administrative Law Judge will not find a way to send your evidence and instead proceeds with the hearing, or if an Administrative Law Judge refuses to accept your evidence because you did not submit it before the hearing, please contact our office immediately.
Requesting a Fair Hearing
Remember, if the Department of Social Services made a decision you think is wrong, you can request a fair hearing online, by mail, by fax, or by telephone:
Contact Neighborhood Legal Services if you have questions about a decision made by the Department of Social Services.