Erie County Democratic Legislators Obtain Major Funding for Poverty Programs, Body Cameras and Roads

Modified: May 28, 2019 8:34am

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Friday, May 24, 2019
Chair April N. M. Baskin and Legislator Howard Johnson secure $1.2 million for poverty initiatives and $600,000 for body cameras for the Erie County Sheriff’s Office

Buffalo, NY- Erie County Legislature Chairwoman April N. M. Baskin and Legislator Howard Johnson have delivered significant funding on important initiatives to residents of the City of Buffalo at today’s session of the Legislature.  In a budgetary action, Legislators Baskin and Johnson secured $1.2 million in new County funds for poverty initiatives and $600,000 for the purchase of and development of a body camera system for the Erie County Sheriff’s Office


“After extensive dialogue this spring in the Legislature, and featuring testimony from the County’s Poverty Committee and its Chair, Reverend Kinzer Pointer, we believed more County funding for combatting poverty was necessary,” said Chairwoman April N. M. Baskin. “The County clearly has a commitment to, and massive appropriations for combating poverty and we reaffirm that commitment from the Democratic Caucus with this $1.2 million appropriation.”


In addition, the 2019 budgetary amendments allocate $500,000 other anti-poverty programs with People Inc. and community development housing.  The County will also appropriate an additional $335,000 for public assistance recipients in the PIVOT Wage Subsidy program.  These are new spending and programs in addition to the 2019 adopted Budget which includes $785 million in funding for health and human services programs and $391 million for economic and community development programs which address poverty and human and social service needs.


“We expect that funding to be allocated proportionately for anti-poverty needs in the Cities of Buffalo, Lackawanna and Tonawanda, as well as the suburban and rural towns and villages,” said Legislator Johnson. “In prior legislative testimony, the Poverty Committee provided data showing that 58% of the County’s poverty is in the City of Buffalo, with 36% in the other two cities and the suburban towns and 6% in the eastern and southern towns in Erie County.”


The Legislature also approved $600,000 for the purchase and implementation of body cameras for the Sheriff Office’s Sheriff Division, for the use of patrol deputies.  The $600,000 appropriation reflects an estimate based on work and research conducted by the County’s Chief Information Officer Michael Breeden, examining a current Axon 2 system or a forthcoming new, more advanced Axon 3 body camera system.


“The minority caucus has proposed funding body cameras with a $2 million appropriation,” noted Baskin. “They provided no basis for their estimate, and we would have been willing to appropriate more funds for the body camera system, but were assured by CIO Breeden that the $600,000 is sufficient funding for a 100-deputy system.  It also compares favorably to the Town of Cheektowaga’s $500,000 funding for its 90-officer police department.  Providing body cameras for deputies has been one of my chief priorities, and I was proud to negotiate a deal to make this program a reality.”


“This funding reflects a shared belief in our community, and in both Legislature caucuses that cameras are needed to protect both deputies and the public,” said Howard.


PIVOT is a wage subsidy program that brings employers together with those receiving public assistance. The county pays the full-time wages of the participant for six months, during training. PIVOT is currently working with employers in the banking, hospitality, community service, legal, hotel, manufacturing, health, childcare, clerical, warehousing and retail sectors. At the conclusion of the 6-month training period, clients become permanent employees with the respective companies.


Finally, the Democratic Caucus also provided $300,000 in new County funding to allow the City of Buffalo to make road improvements and resurfacing of City streets.


Large investment in infrastructure projects has typically been reserved for roads in outer ring suburbs. The Democratic Caucus, under the new leadership of Chairwoman April Baskin, has secured funding for infrastructure work to be conducted by the City of Buffalo.


“The residents of Buffalo also pay significant county taxes, a fact that I think has been lost in budget discussions in recent years,” noted Baskin. “As the Chair of the Legislature, it is my duty to look out for not only my constituents, but all taxpayers of Erie County. Providing additional funds to the City of Buffalo for much-needed road resurfacing ensures that everyone who comes to Buffalo will benefit. I’m happy we have a collaborative relationship with the City that allows these projects to move forward concisely and quickly. When Buffalo thrives, the region thrives.”


City officials, including Mayor Byron Brown, were consulted as to where funding would be best spent. Buffalo will receive $300,000, which the city has earmarked for road improvements in the Central Business District.


“I am grateful that Erie County is able to invest some of its budget surplus into the City of Buffalo and the 1st Legislative District. I commend my colleagues for coming up with an equitable solution that includes Buffalo. This funding will keep to keep Buffalo and Erie County on the right path,” said Legislator Howard Johnson.


The budget balancing amendments were approved today by the Legislature in a 7-3 vote with three members of the Republican Caucus voting against the funding.