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 project located on-site at the fair hearing location and the only project 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 thousands of individuals with fair hearing related matters. Project FAIR also continues to successfully refer clients each year for representation with attorneys or paralegals from our participating organizations.
Project FAIR’s success depends upon leveraging the resources of its dedicated volunteers and participating organizations. Its collaborative structure is unique, with volunteers from over 15 different legal services offices, community organizations, and area law schools. Project FAIR currently has volunteers from the citywide offices of the Legal Aid Society, New York Legal Assistance Group, citywide offices of Legal Services NYC, Urban Justice Center, St. John’s Law School, Brooklyn Law School, as well as other area law schools and community based organizations.