In 2001, a coalition of New York City legal services attorneys, community advocates, and law students created Project FAIR (Fair hearing Assistance, Information & Referral). Growing evidence suggested that there was a need to ensure that the fair hearing process, the primary means for individuals to fix problems with public assistance, food stamps, and Medicaid, was indeed truly fair. As a response, this group created Project FAIR to bring a greater element of justice and information into the administrative fair hearing process. Project FAIR ensures that public benefit applicants and recipients are able to access needed benefits and services and that in the process, their most basic due process rights are protected.
Upon receiving permission from New York State’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), Project FAIR’s organizers established an information and referral Help Desk at the Citywide fair hearing site at 14 Boerum Place in downtown Brooklyn, in order to assist unrepresented fair hearing appellants. The Help Desk is staffed by experienced public benefits attorneys and advocates, most of whom who donate their time, in addition to other trained and supervised volunteers. As the only agency located on-site at the fair hearing location and the only agency specializing in fair hearing rights, Project FAIR brings critical information and assistance to people when and where they need it the most.
Since its inception, Project FAIR has provided assistance, information and referrals to over 17,500 individuals. Each year the number of people served at the Help Desk has steadily increased. Project FAIR continues to offer and conduct trainings to front-line workers and case managers at community based organizations whose constituents may have fair hearing related questions, and, we continue to successfully refer clients each year for representation with attorneys or paralegals from our partner organizations.
Project FAIR’s success depends upon leveraging the resources of its dedicated volunteers and partner organizations. Its collaborative structure is unique, with staff housed at the Legal Aid Society and the New York Legal Assistance Group, and volunteers from over 15 different legal services offices, community organizations, private law firms and area law schools. Project FAIR currently works with volunteers from Brooklyn Law School, City Bar Justice Center, Columbia Law School, Kirkland & Ellis, Legal Aid Society, Citywide offices of Legal Services NYC, New York Legal Assistance Group, St. John’s Law School, Urban Justice Center, as well as other area law schools and community based organizations.