PRESS RELEASE: VPLC selects Salaam Bhatti as its new deputy director, hires Cassie Edner as its new public benefits attorney

Monday, February 28th, 2022


Salaam Bhatti

Cassie Edner

RICHMOND, VA – The Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC) has welcomed Salaam Bhatti as the organization’s new deputy director and Cassie Edner as its new public benefits attorney. Bhatti was previously VPLC’s public benefits attorney for five years; Edner was previously a public benefits attorney at the Legal Services of Northern Virginia and brings eight years of experience to VPLC, starting on February 28.

“We’re thrilled to welcome these new team members to our staff,” said Jay Speer, executive director of VPLC. “With their impressive blend of skills and experience, I know they’ll strengthen the organization as we continue our mission of breaking down systemic barriers that keep low-income Virginians in the cycle of poverty.”

Bhatti joined VPLC in 2017 as the organization’s public benefits attorney. During his tenure, he innovated a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility calculator to provide low-income households easier access to food assistance. The calculator is now used by several states in the U.S. Bhatti also created a statewide SNAP helpline to help Virginians apply for SNAP. He also advocated for policies that help low-income Virginians access public benefits programs at the Virginia General Assembly, successfully leading efforts to expand SNAP eligibility to over 25,000 households; increase Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) by historic amounts; improve access to school meals and prevent lunch shaming; repeal laws denying SNAP/TANF to those with drug felonies; and create the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Edner attended Temple University for her undergraduate degree where she majored in political science and minored in women’s studies. She went on to attend the University of Richmond for law school where she interned at the DC Long-Term Care Ombudsman office, Legal Aid Justice Center, and VPLC. After graduating from law school in 2014, Edner worked with Enroll Virginia as an in-person assister. She then went on to work at the Virginia Legal Aid Society as a staff attorney, the Department of Medical Assistance Services as a hearing officer, and at Legal Services of Northern Virginia as a public benefits attorney.


CONTACT: Monica Lauw, Communications Director, Virginia Poverty Law Center

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