I write in reference to major accomplishments achieved at the Erie County Legislature that will result in significant benefits to the residents of Buffalo. Since being sworn in as the youngest Chairperson in Legislature history just two weeks ago and currently being the only female member of the Democratic Caucus, I am proud to have led our body to making fiscally responsible decisions with the 2018 surplus that will directly improve the functionality of Erie County and help improve the lives of our residents.
Against massive Republican opposition, the Democratic Majority Caucus has successfully amended the County’s 2019 Budget to include significant new funding to address poverty and community needs in Buffalo.
At our legislative session on May 23, 2019, we added an ADDITIONAL $1.2 million in funding for poverty initiatives in our community on top of funds already allocated to combat poverty. As a Single mother whose child was born into poverty, I know first-hand how many people in our community struggle daily. Over the past few months, at my invitation, we’ve held hearings and taken testimony from members of the County’s Poverty Committee, including its Chair, Reverend Kinzer Pointer as well as Dr. Henry Louis Taylor. I also attended a meeting of the Poverty Committee to discuss their work and to learn how the Legislature could assist them further. We sought out their expert opinions and guidance and they responded. We delivered the additional $1.2 Million they needed
The budget amendments also included $31 million for the County’s payments for healthcare for indigent patients at ECMC who don’t have medical insurance. We also approved $350,000 for county payment subsidies for public assistance clients employed in low-wage jobs under the PIVOT Wage Subsidy program. Also approved was the initial $500,000 for 2019 anti-poverty initiatives, of which $300,000 will go to People, Inc. and $200,000 will be allocated for housing assistance projects. Nearly $150,000 of other funds will be spent on lead paint initiatives and combatting this problem in our community. In total, between our new amendments and the County’s annual funding for health, human and social services, this results in a $1 billion dollar investment toward poverty from Erie County in 2019.
The Legislature also added $600,000 of funding for the creation and deployment of a body camera system for patrol deputies in the Erie County Sheriff’s Office. This was an A-1 priority for me for the past year and we made this program happen. After a year of resistance from Sheriff Timothy Howard, we prioritized and appropriated funds for the body cameras. The approved dollar amount reflects the same amount spent by Buffalo and Cheektowaga law enforcement on their Body Cam start ups. Both I and newly appointed Legislature Public Safety Committee Chair, Legislator Howard Johnson are holding Sheriff Howard accountable and conducting our oversight role over his troubled office.
After discussions with City Hall, we also added $300,000 of new funding for the City of Buffalo, which will be used for street repairs and resurfacing in Buffalo. Buffalo residents pay county tax dollars yet their dollars fix County roads not found in Buffalo. I’m glad we were able to find funding to support Buffalo road work.
As Chairwoman of the Erie County Legislature and leader of the Democratic Majority Caucus, I am committed to serving the community and to funding important community programs and services.