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2008 May - June

Instituting a Race-Conscious Practice in Legal Aid

One Program's Effort

By Mona Tawatao, Colin Bailey, Gary F. Smith & Bill Kennedy

Disparate treatment on account of race and ethnicity persists, and legal aid advocates regularly confront the effects of such disparity on their clients. Recognizing the pervasiveness of social and institutional racism, Legal Services of Northern California developed a programwide, race-conscious approach to advocacy through its Race Equity Project. The lessons learned from this effort offer both a race-based lens through which to view a legal aid practice and a road map for other legal aid programs in adopting their own, similar projects.

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Reconstructing the Constitutional Case Against Mandatory Welfare Home Visits

By Steven D. Schwinn

The unconstitutional-conditions doctrine holds that government may not condition benefits on the surrender of individual constitutional rights. Nonetheless, since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1971 decision in Wyman v. James, welfare recipients have been subject to mandatory home visits despite the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable searches. However, the essential nexus test, which is rooted in Fifth Amendment takings claims and measures the fitness between the condition and the government goal, may offer an alternative theory for challenging mandatory home visits.

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Using Student-Run Banks to Promote Financial Education and Community Economic and Workforce Development

By Dory Rand & Kelly E. Slay

Student-run banks are a practical form of financial education. They train students in skills needed to succeed, introduce parents to mainstream banking, and serve as a catalyst for community economic and workforce development. Advocates can help in developing student-run banks and in translating bank benefits to the community and state.

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A State Court Remedy for the Keffeler Problem

A Call to Action

By Lewis Pitts

Washington State Department of Social and Health Services v. Guardianship Estate of Keffeler, 537 U.S. 371 (2003), allows the use of a foster child’s Supplemental Security Income to reimburse states for the cost of the child’s foster care. Yet In re John G., 652 S.E.2d 266 (N.C. 2007), bars the state agency’s taking of social security benefits and brings into question the practice of converting a child’s social security benefits into a funding stream for state institutions. John G. suggests that advocates use a state court remedy to stop the taking of benefits from foster children. This is an opposing view to that of Angie Schwartz and Diana Glick’s article in the March-April 2008 Clearinghouse Review.

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News and Notes

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Public Benefits Privatization and Modernization

Recent Developments and Advocacy

By Mary R. Mannix, Cary LaCheen, Henry A. Freedman & Marc Cohan

More states are contracting with private vendors to administer benefit programs and “modernizing” program administration by closing welfare offices in favor of “call centers” and online access. These changes affect low-income people—changes that are potentially beneficial but too often harmful, especially for vulnerable population groups such as those with disabilities or limited English proficiency. Advocates in four states that have implemented privatization or modernization have had some successes in protecting clients from harmful effects and have gained experience relevant in other states that pursue similar policies.

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Interplay Among Workers' Compensation, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act

By Kevin Liebkemann & Ray Cebula

Low-income workers injured on the job may lose income, health care, and even their jobs if they or their advocate do not understand the relevance and interplay of laws often unfamiliar to legal aid attorneys: workers’ compensation insurance laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. These laws may help injured workers preserve their jobs while they recover and allow them to return to their preinjury jobs or, with reasonable accommodations, go to other jobs. Safety net programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid may provide income and health care to the injured worker whose claims under those laws are denied or delayed.

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Beyond Green Roofs

By Peter Levavi

While many may agree that development, including affordable housing, should seek to be environmentally sensitive, developers, public agencies, and the general public disagree on what this commitment to green development should be. Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing advocates an integrated design approach, gives best practices in green development, lists green affordable-housing developments across the country, and presents a dozen in-depth case studies of model projects.

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Local Land-Use Advocacy

Inclusionary Zoning to Achieve Economic and Racial Integration

By Valerie Feldman

Inclusionary zoning offers housing as well as access to better education, economic opportunities, transportation, and more environmentally sound development for households of all income levels. Legal Services of Northern California contributed to the passage of Sacramento County’s inclusionary zoning ordinance, which provided for a set-aside for extremely low-income households. A coalition of stakeholders, including LSNC, discovered that applicability, enforceability, possible buyouts and in-lieu fees, and long-term affordability were among the factors determining an ordinance’s effectiveness.

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Strings Attached

The Power of the Federal Purse Waives State Sovereign Immunity from the Rehabilitation Act

By Rochelle Bobroff & Harper Jean Tobin

After years as, essentially, a sidekick to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act has become the sole avenue for obtaining damages from state employers for employment discrimination based on disabilities. The Rehabilitation Act is valuable for obtaining damages from states in the context of public programs and services. Particularly in light of recent cases holding that state sovereign immunity does not limit the relevance of the Rehabilitation Act, understanding the advantages and disadvantages of using the Rehabilitation Act to sue state entities is key to obtaining damages for clients with disabilities.

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