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Two-year pilot program to support working individuals from public benefits to self-sufficiency

"It's a demonstration project that says you can get different outcomes if you operate differently."
Hourly Employee Shortage
Posted at 5:49 PM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 17:49:04-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Erie County elected officials have launched a "Live Well Erie Workforce Development" program to help fight labor shortage.

Those elected officials gathered at the Rosina Foods Wednesday morning in West Seneca to introduce the two-year project. The project aims to support up to 200 working individuals as they transition from public benefits to self-sufficiency.

"Here's what this program looks like we are partnering with employers like Rosina, Buffalo Niagara Partnership, and Goodwill are identifying who would work with us," says Marie Cannon, Commissioner of Erie County Social Services. "And what they have to agree to that there will be opportunities for career advancement."

The CEO of Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Dottie Gallagher, passionately says the project focuses on having solutions to the workforce shortage.

"It's a demonstration project that says you can get different outcomes if you operate differently," says Gallagher. "This particular approach with the private sector standing literally next to the public sector saying we will work together to solve a problem for everyone."

Many of the elected officials believe this project will help bridge the labor shortage gap and encourage other local employers to get involved.

The Vice President of Rosina Foods Products, Inc. John Zimmerman looks forward to being part of the solution and straightening the local workforce.

"So it's really important to us because we're looking to assist those individuals we want to make sure they're coming to Rosina as good associates and they're going elsewhere," says Zimmerman. "We need people to come in, but we need people to stay."

This initiative will also provide life and career coaching and help with transportation to and from work.

"We have the funding to be able to support that so it could be bus pass, it could be help paying for car insurance," says Cannon. "We've seen folks live out in akron and need to come here, but having trouble paying car insurance so it's really all the social determinants is what we're addressing."

The program promises a salary boost.

"This program is really about getting these individuals to higher paying jobs and having a lasting career, so they no longer need to rely on these public assistance programs," says Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

To learn more about the pilot program, contact Erie County's Employer Relations Coordinator Amy Dvorak at or at (716) 8858-1060.