Legal Aid lawyers and welfare advocates are concerned that a New York City pilot program designed to expedite the resolution of disputes over public assistance benefits infringes on the due process rights of their indigent clients.

The program, called Mandatory Dispute Resolution (MDR), began in May in Staten Island and expanded to Queens in August. It requires that public assistance recipients who have requested fair hearings to contest reductions in their benefits appear at pre-hearing arbitration interviews at local welfare centers under threat of having their cases closed.

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