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"It's a godsend:" NFHA program to train 700+ CNA's by 2023

The Niagara Housing Authority and the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center using grant money to sponsor the education of nurse assistants
Hospital Hallway
Posted at 4:16 PM, Nov 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-29 17:47:11-05

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — In March 2022, expect about 100 new nurses assistants, or CNA's, to walk out of the Niagara Orleans BOCES ready to hit the job market. By the end of the year, numbers could reach as high as 700+.

"We are providing low-income families with the opportunity to make $15, $16, $20, an hour - plus providing new healthcare workers at a time where they are needed more than ever before. It is essential," said Clifford Scott, the Executive Director of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority.

The Housing Authority and the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center received approval for a grant through the Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield "Blue Fund," an annual campaign to help stimulate interest in the healthcare field, but also to help life the community up and help stimulate certain work to rebound during the pandemic.

According to Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, the money goes "to local organizations and initiatives that have a positive impact on key health areas. These key health areas include behavioral health, cardiovascular health, health care workforce development and healthy children." So far, the grant program has given out more than $9.3 million to organizations in Western New York.

The full list of 2021 recipients of the "Blue Fund" grant are:

  • Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus: $240,000
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County: $264,000
  • The Children’s Hospital of Buffalo Foundation: $175,000
  • Crisis Services: $290,000
  • FeedMore WNY: $200,000
  • Healthy Community Alliance: $240,000
  • Neighborhood Health Center: $250,000
  • Niagara Falls Housing Authority: $226,000
  • Project Stork: $100,000
  • Spectrum Health & Human Services: $165,000
  • United Memorial Medical Center: $200,000
  • WNY Women’s Foundation: $100,000

The total grant money given by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield totaled $2.45 million.

"I've never seen this before, but I think its amazing. It's a godsend, really. We will have one hundred people to help serve our elderly in our nursing home - and we need them," said Sheila Kee, the Chief Operating Officer of the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center - the home for the clinical part of the program.

Here's how it works:

  • 100 total students (multiple sessions, one following the other)
  • 4 days a week, for 6 weeks
  • Clinical, hands-on training at the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center
  • Practical learning at Niagara Orleans BOCES
  • Program will culminate in a NYS nursing assistant ceritfication exam.
  • First class will begin in January 2022.

Plus, due to grant funding, the program is completely free.

"We will provide a stipend during the program, but tuition, textbooks, uniforms, even transportation to and from class plus child care will all be included," said Scott.

In addition, the Housing Authority tells 7 Eyewitness News that there are resources on site ready to provide immediate job placement after graduation, with salaries high above minimum wage.

"Niagara Falls is a low-income community. We want to lift people up and help them succeed," said Scott.

To apply for the program, requirements are as follows:

  1. You must be vaccinated against COVID-19.
  2. You must have a General Education Degree (GED).

Priority will also be given to those in a lower-income bracket, and residents of Niagara Falls.

If you are interested in the program, please reach out to Kathy Dix at 716-731-6800 Ext. 4445. There are still spots available.

Also, if you or your organization is interested in applying for a "Blue Fund" grant:

  • "Blue Fund has a two-step grant application process that begins each Spring with applicants submitting a brief letter of intent (LOI) using Blue Fund’s online application system. Selected applicants are then invited to submit a full proposal, and grants are announced each Fall. 
  • The 2022 Blue Fund cycle will be announced in the coming months. Interested applicants can visit for more information."