Thinking of Becoming a U.S. Citizen? Your Union Can Help

June 19, 2020 // 0 Comments

The DC 37 Municipal Employees Legal Services (MELS), the Building Service 32BJ Legal Services Fund (Legal Fund) and CUNY Citizenship NOW are jointly presenting a seminar July 1 on free services the union offers to help members on the path to becoming a U.S. citizen and its many benefits. This seminar will cover how and when to file, what the requirements are, the many benefits of citizenship, and more. Our experts and legal professionals will also discuss the citizenship test and how to prepare for it, petitioning for relatives, DACA, TPS, green card renewals and more.  Learn how the Legal Fund, MELS, CUNY and the DC 37 Citizenship Committee can help. Join us on Zoom for the Benefits of Becoming a U.S. Citizen Seminar for information and answers to your questions. Date: Wednesday, July 1 Time: 6 p.m. Via: Zoom  REGISTER HERE. [More...]

MELS UPDATE: Replacing Lost Income, Short Term Disability, Public Assistance, Food Stamps, Workers’ Comp and Unemployment Insurance  

May 29, 2020 // 0 Comments

DC 37 Municipal Employees Legal Services, MELS, provides information on benefits members can access to replace lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic. DC 37 HEALTH AND SECURITY PLAN SHORT TERM DISABILITY Members who are unable to continue working because of illness or disability may be eligible for short term disability, public assistance and food stamps. The weekly disability benefit available through H&S for Full Time workers is 66.2/3 of their salary, up to a maximum of $200 per week for a maximum period of 26 weeks, but no longer than a member remains totally disabled. The weekly disability benefit available through H&S for Part Time workers is 66 2/3 of their salary, up to a maximum of $98 per week for a maximum period of 13 weeks, but no longer than a member remains totally disabled. Members may apply for short term disability benefits by completing the online [More...]

Debts and the Deceased

May 18, 2020 // 0 Comments

The DC 37 Muncipal Employees Legal Services (MELS) answers your questions about the debts of deceased loved ones, especially during this coronavirus pandemic.  Am I responsible for paying off the debts of a deceased relative?  Generally, the answer is, no. Responsibility for a deceased relative’s outstanding obligation is not automatically transferred to a surviving relative.  Are debts extinguished when the debtor dies?  No. Outstanding debts remain active. Payment of the debts becomes the responsibility of the decedent’s estate. If there are no assets in the estate, meaning the decedent left behind nothing of value with which to pay outstanding obligations, the obligations often go unpaid.  Can I, as a surviving relative, ever be held responsible for the deceased’s outstanding debts?  Yes. There are circumstances under which a surviving relative can be held responsible for [More...]

MELS UPDATE: COVID-19 Eviction Protection and Rent Hardship

May 12, 2020 // 0 Comments

DC 37’s Municipal Employees Legal Services (MELS) is here to help members with housing and rent hardship needs. Although New York City remains on pause through at least May 15, 2020 and Courthouses remain closed, the Office of Court Administration is accepting emergency applications where there has been an eviction, illegal lockout, interruption in essential services or emergency conditions that need repair. Contact MELS at (212) 815-1111 or email if you need emergency relief from the Housing Court or would like to speak with an attorney about a housing or rent hardship matter. ● Executive Order No. 202.8, signed on March 20, 2020, bars all evictions and foreclosures in New York State through June 18, 2020. ● Executive Order No. 202.28, signed on May 7, 2020, allows tenants impacted by COVID-19 to temporarily use their security deposit toward their rent [More...]

MELS UPDATE: COVID-19 and Your Taxes

April 10, 2020 // 0 Comments

The IRS has extended the deadline to July 15 for filing tax returns and paying any balance due. This is important if a taxpayer owes money to the IRS or New York State or may have difficulty putting documents together at this time to prepare a tax return. Taxpayers should file their tax returns as quickly as possible, especially if they are due refunds. To speed refunds and avoid delays with mail delivery, taxpayers should opt for direct deposit of their refunds. Congress has enacted economic stimulus legislation to provide monetary relief, especially to those who are unemployed or not receiving their paychecks. The legislation provides for payments to all taxpayers, based upon their 2019 tax return or, if they have not filed yet, 2018. If a tax return has been filed for 2019, the stimulus check will be based upon 2019 information. If the 2019 return has not been filed, the stimulus [More...]

MELS UPDATE: COVID-19 Federal Student Loan Relief

April 8, 2020 // 0 Comments

The Municipal Employees Legal Services is here to help members manage their student debt. Collection of Federal direct student loans has been suspended through September 30, 2020. During this period: Borrowers with federal student loans in repayment are excused from making their regular monthly payments. Involuntary collection activity must stop — No wage garnishment; no federal tax seizure and no Social Security reductions. No interest and no penalties will accrue. Borrowers have the option of continuing to make monthly principal payments. Borrowers in the student loan rehabilitation process will receive credit for suspended payments. FFEL loans not owned by the federal government, Perkins loans obtained through the state, and private student loans obtained through commercial lenders are not eligible for relief under this program. Borrowers in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness [More...]

MELS UPDATE: COVID-19 Mortgage Relief

April 7, 2020 // 0 Comments

MORATORIUM ON FORECLOSURES There is currently a moratorium on all foreclosures through June 11, 2020. After the moratorium ends, foreclosures that are in process will resume, and new foreclosures may be initiated. FEDERALLY GUARANTEED MORTGAGES If you have a federally-guaranteed mortgage (FHA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, VA.) and are having difficulty making payments because of a COVID-19 related hardship, you may call your mortgage servicer and request a forbearance of your payments for 180 days, and up to 12 months. During the forbearance period interest will continue to accrue, but late fees should not be charged, and there should be no negative reporting to the credit reporting agencies. At the end of the forbearance period, the entire deferred amount will become due.  The missed payments will not be forgiven. We encourage those who can continue to pay their mortgages to do so. If you [More...]

NY Housing Updates: Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium, COVID-19 Discrimination, NYCHA & Section 8 Rent Hardships

March 30, 2020 // 0 Comments

The Municipal Employees Legal Services (MELS) is operational and ready to serve you. Our offices at 55 Water Street are closed but we are working remotely. Call us with your housing questions and for legal representation at 212-815-1111. During the public health emergency caused by COVID-19:  There will be no evictions or foreclosures through June 18, 2020.  Your landlord cannot start a lawsuit against you for non-payment of rent. However, the landlord may send you a rent demand notice asking you to pay your rent and threatening a lawsuit if you fail to make payment.  Your landlord cannot start a “holdover” lawsuit against you for grounds other than non-payment. However, the landlord may send you a termination notice or a notice to quit threatening to commence a court case if you don’t move out by a date certain. Your landlord cannot evict you or ask you to leave your apartment [More...]

Union Legal Services Are Available

March 24, 2020 // 0 Comments

By BILL WHALEN, Director and Chief Counsel, DC 37 Municipal Employees Legal Services The lawyers, legal assistants and clerical workers at MELS are continuing to serve members remotely. Our Screening Unit can be reached at 212-815-1111 and can connect you with an attorney.  New York courts are operating on an emergency basis. They are only handling emergency applications. These include: Applications to stop garnishments and unfreeze bank accounts that are the result of a judgment in consumer debt cases; Applications to get back into your apartment if you have been locked out by the landlord or evicted by a City Marshal; Applications to correct serious housing code violations and reductions in essential services; Emergency family offense petitions; Temporary orders of protection; Orders to show cause in Family Court proceedings. Federal Bankruptcy courts also are operating on an [More...]

Important Information About Your DC 37 Health & Security Plan Benefits During COVID-19

March 23, 2020 // 0 Comments

YOUR OPTUMRx PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT (All Active and Non-Medicare, Pre-65 Eligible Participants) Refill Too Soon. Effective immediately, in consideration of the COVID-19 situation, the DC 37 Health & Security Plan requested and OptumRx has agreed to immediately lift the “Refill Too Soon” restriction on covered drugs until further notice. Drugs with significant abuse potential (i.e. opioids) or those that are generally dosed for finite durations or intermittently (i.e. hepatitis or fertility treatments) as identified by OptumRx will follow the normal process for renewals. Prior Authorizations Extended. OptumRx has also agreed to extend Prior Authorizations (PAs) for member medications that are set to expire on or before May 1, 2020. This policy went into effect March 18, 2020.  For chronic condition medications, OptumRx will extend PAs for an additional 90 days past May 1, [More...]