7/31/14: Erie County DSS Team Takes "PIVOT" To Capitol Hill

Modified: January 23, 2015 3:04pm

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Testifies Before U.S. House Ways & Means Sub-Committee on Human Resources

 Erie County’s PIVOT Program Draws National Attention

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Representatives of the Erie County Department of Social Services testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Ways & Means Sub-Committee on Human Resources on Wednesday to discuss the success of the PIVOT Program in Erie County. Employer Relations Coordinator Amy Dvorak was joined by Director of Employment Programs Sandra Neubert to outline the PIVOT (“Placing Individuals in Vital Opportunity Training”) Program, which provides incentives to employers to hire TANF (“Temporary Assistance for Needy Families”) clients, including some with multiple barriers or the need for more time for on-the-job-training. Since its inception in 2000, the unique PIVOT program has contracted with over 300 employers throughout the WNY region in industries such as manufacturing, hospitality, health care, retail, professional services and nonprofits.

“The Department of Social Services’ PIVOT Program is a success story that continues to benefit not only individuals and families across Erie County, but employers as well,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “Eligible prospective employees acquire the skills and education they need to increase their employability, particularly in the ‘soft skills’, and employers have access to a pool of potential employees who have the skill sets they are looking for. The Program fosters relationships, builds skills that lead to gainful long-term employment, and leads to participants and their families relying less on public assistance.”

PIVOT employer benefits include a wage reimbursement for 6 months at 100% of the clients’ gross wages. The employer can also request a 50% advance on the clients’ wages, which will cover expenses incurred by hiring costs and the need to provide additional training. Employers participating in the program are from a variety of industries including manufacturing, hospitality, health care, retail, professional services and nonprofits.  Positions that individuals have been hired for under the program include machine operators, forklift operators, housekeepers, cleaners, porters, cooks, CNA’s, LPN’s, dietary aides, cashiers, customer service representatives, security guards, legal assistants, and day care assistants.

Erie County Commissioner of Social Services Carol Dankert-Maurer added, “This DSS initiative began nearly fourteen years ago and is still going strong, with hundreds of participants now having new and portable skill sets, increased earnings, and a better quality of life. The PIVOT Program, a component of our TANF program, empowers clients through opportunities and the prospect of success. We are proud of the success of the PIVOT Program and the ability to assist individuals to empowerment and ultimately, self-sufficiency.”

Eligible employers must be an existing company with permanent long term positions. The employer provides on-the-job training and the Department of Social Services provides supportive services in the form of day care, transportation and case management to support the transition to work. These supports assist in the successful shift from Temporary Assistance to permanent employment and self-sufficiency.

TANF clients are pre-screened for job compatibility. This includes matching skills, abilities and education with the specifications of the job to assist employers with locating suitable candidates for available positions in their company.  The employer is involved in the hiring process and provided an opportunity to select from multiple candidates. In addition, monthly Job Fairs are conducted by the Department of Social Services which affords employers the opportunity to interview and recruit perspective employees.

Dankert continued, “We have learned from employer feedback that prospective employees lack soft skills needed to be successful in jobs, such as communication, accountability, coping skills, conflict resolution and motivation.  This lack of skills leads to high turnover. To address this need and broaden the base of PIVOT eligible candidates, the PIVOT program works hand in hand with the Work Experience program to achieve long term successful employment placements. Work Experience is work performed at public or nonprofit organizations by individuals in receipt of Temporary Assistance to enable the participant to improve his or her work skills and soft skills; and thus employability.”

TANF recipients are required to be engaged in a countable core work activity for up to 35 hours per week (25 hours for a TANF client with a child less than 6 years). A collaborative effort was developed between Erie County Department of Social Services Employment Division and community agencies to create the neighborhood hub site model. The hub sites, located in neighborhoods where large numbers of Temporary Assistance recipients reside, are locations where clients perform their Work Experience and give clients a foundation to effectively function in a competitive work environment. In addition to enhancing the participants’ work skills and soft skills, they are able to combine Work Experience with educational programs such as High School Equivalency (“HSE”), English as a Second Language (“ESL”) and Computer Skills on site. The clients combine 20 hours per week of work experience with 10 to 15 hours of educational training to meet their 35 hours per week work requirement.

Through this model the client is provided the opportunity to acquire the skills and education that will enhance their employability and thereby increase the pool of PIVOT eligible candidates. The model also results in increased participation in federally countable work activities by making worksites more accessible. Additionally, Erie County’s strategy of using Work Experience in local communities expands services available at local community centers and encourages individuals to invest in and connect with the community. 

The PIVOT program is funded by the Flexible Fund for Family Services (FFFS) allocation. Approximately 5.5% of FFFS allocation is budgeted to the PIVOT program.  The budget for fiscal year 2014 is $2,541,411. A monthly average of 30 PIVOT contracts are executed with an average contract cost of $7,800.00. The impact from Work Experience plus PIVOT is over 400 individuals each year, moving from Work Experience to competitive employment.  A 2012 review of the Program identified some 72% of PIVOT placements who were no longer receiving public benefits one year later. 

For more information:

On the Erie County Department of Social Services, visit http://www2.erie.gov/socialservices/