The Erie County Department of Social Services is intricately involved in programs associated with anti-poverty inititiatives in Erie County, including the efforts of the Erie County Poverty Committee. Recent Poverty Committee events include the 2017 EC Poverty Committee Poverty Forum, held December 15, 2017 at the University at Buffalo South Campus, at which Poverty Committee members released their 2017 Report of Recommendations, which can be viewed Here.
The Forum was well-attended by various DSS Senior and Executive staff, as well as community advocates and agency representatives. Discussion points at the Forum included Marie Cannon, Erie County Social Services Acting Commissioner and First Deputy Commissioner of Family Independence, stating the Department of Social Services' implementation of this past year's Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). SYEP was administered through Buffalo Urban League and provided services for 724 participating youths across Erie County, 563 of whom were categorized as having family incomes under 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. There were 138 worksites across the County available as part of SYEP, and ECDSS incorporated youth who were homeless, in foster care, or having other at-risk indicators.
Other points discussed by the Committee at the Forum, or described in the Report of Recommendations, included:
- Identifying poverty and a race-wide issue, not just affecting inner-city or minority communities, as it was mentioned 62 percent of poverty in Erie County takes place outside the City of Buffalo; with the Rural Outreach Center (ROC) having been established in East Aurora as a central area of assistance; to go along with the Department of Social Services utilizing University at Buffalo student interms to assist those in the community.
- Identifying the presence of lead in residences as a serious issue that adversely affects children, particularly in the City of Buffalo.
- Financial hardship is experienced by 66 percent of Hispanic households in Erie County; 64 percent of African-American households; 46 percent of Asian-American households; and 35 percent of White households.
- Although 15 percent of Erie County households are designated as being in poverty, a much-higher percentage do not earn enough to afford the five basic household necessities of housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care.
- There are roughly 5,000 young Erie County children (23 percent of all Erie County children) living in poverty or financial hardship.
- 31 percent of households in the City of Buffalo experience poverty, while 60 percent experience financial hardship.
The Poverty Committee is comrpised of Rev. Kinzer M. Pointer (Committee Chair) of Agape Fellowship Baptist Church; Frank Cerny, PhD., Executive Director of the Rural Outreach Center; Anna Falicov, Esq., City of Buffalo; Dr. Myron Glick of the Jericho Road Community Health Center; Yvonne S. Minor-Ragan, PhD., YMRagan Consulting, LLC; Dr. Henry Louis Taylor, PhD., Center for Urban Studies at the University at Buffalo; and Marlies A. Wesolowski, Executive Director of the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center. The Poverty Committee over the past year has heard from various Erie County departments that work directly with residents in povery or financial hardship, especially the Department of Social Services.
Erie County allocated $500,000 for anti-poverty measures in its 2017 budget and requested the Poverty Committee to advise on how to spend that allocation. The Committee recommended to apply such funding toward enhaancing two existing programs: to train contracted child care providers to screen vulnerable children for environmental delays; and to provide year-round services to youth to improve their training and work-readiness skills through support services and employment.
In addition to the Forum held December 15, 2017 and the Report of Recommendations that was released, ECDSS, the Erie County Executive and the Poverty Committee collaboratively sponsored in August 2017 a Poverty Summit that was held at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. The Summit was attended by approximately 275 individuals and was effective in generating responses to the issue of poverty as well as promoting initiatives aimed at ameliorating the issue moving forward.
The Erie County Poverty Committee was re-established in Spring 2015.