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Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz today joined Vice President Kamala Harris, governors and local leaders from across the country at the White House for a Summit on the American Rescue Plan and how it is helping to strengthen our nation's workforce. The Summit highlighted model American Rescue Plan investments in workforce development across the areas of care and public health, infrastructure, and expanding the workforce and County Executive Poloncarz discussed Erie County’s Healthcare Careers Grant Program, which provides qualified Erie County residents with free training and support services as they move along a career path in high-demand healthcare positions.


Poloncarz remarks as prepared for delivery:


            “Good afternoon, before I begin discussing our healthcare workforce initiative funded by the American Rescue Plan, I must once again express my thanks on behalf of a grateful community to President Biden and Vice President Harris for your response to the terrible mass shooting that occurred in Buffalo on May 14. Your efforts, and the continued response of multiple federal agencies, are helping our community heal from this horrific tragedy. Thank you.


            Prior to 2021, the United States Department of Health & Human Service (HHS) offered educational training and other aid to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients for higher paying occupations in the healthcare field that were expected to experience labor shortages. This program was known as the Healthcare Profession Opportunity Grant, HPOG for short, and was administered by local social service agencies.


            Congress did not reauthorize funding for HPOG for the 21-22 federal fiscal year and it was discontinued by all local social service agencies.


            The Buffalo and Erie County Workforce Investment Board administered HPOG in my community and WIB leadership, along with the Erie County Department of Social Services, recommended its’ continuance in some form by our county.


            As such, when we were formulating our plan for investing Erie County’s proceeds from the American Rescue Plan Act, we created the Erie County Healthcare Careers Program, ECHC for short, and initially funded it through the use of $1.6 million dollars of Erie County’s initial ARPA assistance received in 2021.


            Commencing last October, the Erie County Healthcare Careers Program provides educational training grants of up to $10,000 per student in high-demand healthcare occupations including, among others:


•          Registered Nurse

•          Licensed Practical Nurse

•          Physical Therapy Assistant

•          Radiological Technologist and

•          Respiratory Therapist


            The recipient no longer had to be enrolled in TANF, but did need to meet certain other low-income eligibility requirements, such as earning less than $25 per hour in their current employment.


            In addition to the education training grant, a student enrolled in the program is provided a transportation allowance, childcare assistance, and access to an emergency fund of up to $500 per person for car repairs, healthcare expenses, housing needs, or whatever the emergency might be.


            When the ECHC program began in October 2021, the initial goal was to enroll 200 students in the program by October 1, 2022. By December 2021, more than 150 residents were already enrolled in it, with a waiting list of potential enrollees growing by the day.


            Because of the tremendous success early on, Erie County then dedicated an additional $1.35 million in county funding to the ECHC program to prepare for the additional anticipated enrollment.


            I am proud to say, working with our collegiate educational training partners, more than 320 Erie County residents are now enrolled in the Erie County Healthcare Careers program, and we expect nearly 400 to be enrolled by September 30, 2022, double the number of individuals we hoped to train in the first year.


            Due to its initial success, as long as the demand for training in these important healthcare fields exists, we intend to continue to offer the program to qualified individuals.


            Without the allocation of American Rescue Plan Assistance to Erie County, it is highly likely this excellent workforce development initiative would not have been created.


            Thank you for your passage of the American Rescue Plan and giving counties the flexibility to invest the proceeds in the manner deemed to be best locally. Because of its passage and your efforts, at least 320 Erie County residents are now on the road to a better future for themselves and their families, and care in our local healthcare system is being strengthened. Thank you.”



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