(Buffalo, NY) Erie County’s 2022 Budget will include major investments in improving health equity, combatting gun violence, in city infrastructure. The $1.8 billion budget will also include funding to place cameras in every part of the Erie County Holding Center and for city-based community organizations. The Legislature also took steps to modernize Erie County’s Minority and Women Owned Business Law.
“Budgets are more than line items and dollars and cents, they are moral documents,” said Erie County Legislature Chair April N. M. Baskin. “The budget that I, and my colleagues in the Democratic Majority negotiated with the County Executive will bring real, positive changes to black and brown communities.”
The newly created Division of Health Equity will be staffed with nine employees, who will be dedicated to uncovering the many ways that the social determinants of health, which include economic stability, education access and quality, health care access and quality, the built environment and community context are impacting the residents of Erie County. The employees will work closely with the Erie County Department of Health to develop programs that alleviate these conditions and improve health care outcomes.
“The pandemic made it impossible to deny the deep-rooted disparities that have existed in underserved communities for decades,” said Baskin. “The same issues that apply to COVID – higher incidences compared to other communities, lack of underlying infrastructure to deliver services, a scarcity of providers – all apply to diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other chronic conditions. I was determined to find a way for Erie County to step forward and start taking steps to improve healthcare in these communities.”
Erie County’s Central Police Services will have a new Gun Violence Coordinator on staff starting in 2022. This individual will work with local governments, police agencies and community organizations to develop strategies to combat gun violence in our region.
“I was proud to stand with the County Executive earlier this year as he declared gun violence to be public health crisis,” noted Baskin. “But I felt that if county government was truly committed to confronting this problem, we needed to take concrete steps. This is why I pushed for the creation of a position in county government whose sole focus would be working on solutions to this ongoing crisis.”
The new budget includes $2.4 million for Urban Initiative funding. This program, which was created two years ago by Chair Baskin, provides funding for infrastructure projects in Erie County’s three cities: Buffalo, Lackawanna, and Tonawanda.
“City residents pay the same property and sales taxes as those who live in the town,” said Baskin. “But for decades, they were denied funding for infrastructure projects. The last census showed an increase in Buffalo’s population, which will clearly increase wear on our roads. Not to mention the fact that hundreds of thousands of suburban residents commute to Buffalo for work and activities on a weekly basis. City residents deserve their fair share, and I am proud that we are increasing funding this year.”
The Erie County Holding Center will have cameras throughout the facility for the first time starting in 2022. The Democratic Majority committed $500,000, which was matched by the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, for a total investment of $1 million.
“The Holding Center was built during a different era,” said Baskin. “Unfortunately, we saw instances where deputies and jail officials were taking advantage of blind spots in the old infrastructure and abusing detainees. I am incredibly proud that the Democratic Majority supported funding for cameras and that we were able to bring the Sheriff’s Office to the table. There is no single solution to improving conditions at the Holding Center, but these cameras will go a long way to curbing the most egregious abuses.”
The Minority and Women Owned Business Act will bring a series of laws that were passed starting in 1978 into one comprehensive law that lays out clear guidelines for contractors who are awarded contracts of $100,000 or more for construction or professional services or $20,000 or more for supplies or equipment. The law establishes a collective goal of thirty percent for MWBES – 20% for minority owned businesses and 10 percent for women owned businesses.
“The pandemic had major economic impact on our community,” said Baskin. “The county’s current MWBE policies were in need of modernization, and I believed that we needed to increase the number of MWBE’s that participate in county contracts. This law streamlines the county’s existing policies and establishes higher goals for participation.”
The 2022 budget also includes funding for more than 100 community and cultural organizations, including:
- Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor
- University Heights Collaborative
- Juneteenth Festival
- African American Veterans Monument
- Colored Musicians Club
- Black Achievers, Inc.
- WNY Urban Arts Collective
“The Democratic Majority believes that community organizations are an essential part of the fabric of our community. Major programs and infrastructure projects are important, but so too is quality of life. Many of these organizations have played a central role in our community for decades and this funding will help them achieve their missions.”