Hochul announces launch of new hate & bias prevention unit within NYS Division of Human Rights

Originally published in Niagara Frontier Publications

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday announced the New York State Division of Human Rights is launching a statewide hate and bias prevention unit, which is charged with leading public education and outreach efforts, serving as an early warning detection system in local communities, and quickly mobilizing to support areas and communities in which a bias incident has occurred.

"New York state will use every tool at its disposal to eliminate hate and bias from our communities," Hochul said. "We will not let the rise in hate incidents that we see happening online, across the country and across the world, take root here at home."

Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado said, "We cannot allow ignorance, fear and hatred to damage the enormous amount of work we've done to move our state forward. The partnerships that we're building within communities and across the state will ensure what we know to be true, which is that love always prevails over hate."

Division of Human Rights Commissioner Maria L. Imperial said, "Everyone – no matter what color they are, or who they love, or what they believe – should feel safe when they go to work, or go dancing, or visit a house of worship, or send their kids off to school. This new unit will advance our mission of equal opportunity, access and dignity for all in our state."

Hochul’s team said, “As part of this new unit's mandate, the division is organizing 10 regional councils across the state made up of local stakeholders. These councils will provide a place for community members to share concerns, organize educational programming, host hate crime prevention and community healing events, conduct trainings in conflict resolution, and facilitate the filing of complaints with the division and other relevant agencies. The unit also will develop a rapid response team to assist communities affected by a bias or hate incident.

“The hate and bias prevention unit also will be responsible for establishing and implementing a statewide campaign promoting acceptance, inclusion, tolerance and understanding of diversity, as required by legislation signed last month by Gov. Hochul. The campaign will coordinate and cooperate with public and private organizations, including, but not limited to, local governments, community groups, school districts, places of worship, charitable organizations and foundations, and will develop educational materials to be published on the internet, social media and other platforms to reach the public. The division also works with the New York State Police to educate New Yorkers on the state's hate crimes laws.”

The governor previously announced $96 million in state and federal funding to safeguard nonprofit, community-based organizations at risk of hate crimes and attacks; $10 million in state funding through the Securing Reproductive Health Centers Program to improve safety and security of patients and employees at reproductive health care centers and abortion services providers that may be at risk of crimes or attacks because of their mission, services, ideology or beliefs; and established within the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services a domestic terrorism prevention unit and directed $10 million in state grant funds to support county governments as they develop domestic terrorism prevention plans and threat assessment and management teams in the wake of the shooting on the Tops Market in Buffalo.

The division annually investigates more than 5,000 complaints of discrimination from individuals across the state. The agency also has the authority to initiate investigations and file complaints alleging violations of the state antidiscrimination law and, last year, the division secured more than $6.2 million in monetary damages for individuals who have experienced discrimination. The division also works with the New York State Police to educate New Yorkers on the state's hate crimes laws.

The New York State Division of Human Rights is dedicated to eliminating discrimination, remedying injustice, and promoting equal opportunity, access and dignity through enforcement of the Human Rights Law. Individuals interested in finding out more information or filing a complaint can visit the DHR website.

Hochul Signs Legislation to Protect Victims of Hate Crimes from Being Mistreated by Insurance Companies

Hochul also signed legislation (S.7658-B/A.8869-B) that protects victims of hate crimes from being mistreated by insurance companies.

Her team said, “The new law prohibits insurers from canceling insurance, raising premiums, refusing to issue a policy or refusing to renew a policy solely on the basis that one or more claims have been made for a loss that is a result of a hate crime. This new law will apply to individuals, religious organizations or nonprofits organized and operated for religious, charitable or educational purposes.”

Hochul said, "New York stands strong against acts of hate wherever they occur, and we will continue to hold perpetrators of these horrific crimes accountable. If an individual is targeted for a hate crime, the last thing they should worry about is losing their insurance, and with this legislation we are taking action to protect victims and ensure every New Yorker is treated with dignity and respect."

Legislation S.7658-B/A.8869-B adds a new section to the insurance law prohibiting an insurer issuing policies in New York from cancelling, raising the premium, refusing to issue or refusing to renew a policy solely on the basis that one or more claims have been made against the policy during the preceding five years for a loss that is the result of a hate crime committed against the person or property insured, if the insured provides evidence to the insurer that the act causing such a loss is a hate crime. It also ensures perpetrators of hate crimes cannot use the legislation to protect themselves from rate increases or cancellations as a result of the crime they themselves committed.

New York State Sen. Anna M. Kaplan said, "As a Jewish refugee who came to this country fleeing antisemitic violence in my homeland, my heart aches over the explosion of hate and extremist fueled violence that we've seen in this country since the pandemic. I've been proud to stand up and fight back against hate at every opportunity, but we need to do more, and this legislation is an important step to make clear that hate has no place in New York state. No one who is the victim of a hate crime should fear reprisals from their insurance company just for reporting what's happened to them, and every victim should feel comfortable reporting hate to the police to allow justice to be served. I'm grateful for the governor's efforts to tackle this crisis head-on, and for signing this bill into law to remove barriers to justice that continue to harm victims."

In November, Hochul signed legislation requiring individuals convicted of hate crimes to undergo mandatory training or counseling, as well as establish a statewide campaign for the acceptance, inclusion, tolerance and understanding of diversity, including, but not limited to diversity based on religion, race, color, creed, sex, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. The governor also announced $50 million to strengthen safety and security measures at nonprofit, community-based organizations at risk of hate crimes, in addition to $46 million in federal funding to 240 nonprofit organizations across the state facing an increased risk of terrorist attack. This builds on last year's $43 million in grants awarded to 362 nonprofit organizations to help boost security infrastructure and enhance preparedness against potential hate crime attacks. In addition, the governor's FY2023 enacted budget expands arrest and bail eligibility for hate crimes, making all hate crimes arrest-eligible if the individual is 18 or older.