Buffalo leaders to tackle poverty through state-funded initiative

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Members of a new task force will tackle poverty in the Queen City. The NYS 2016-2017 budget includes $2.75 million for an anti-poverty initiative in Buffalo.

Mayor Byron Brown said he plans to meet with state representatives and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz this week to start working on a plan.

The initiative will bring together lawmakers, local non-profits and people living in poverty. The goal is to collaborate on a plan to reduce poverty by looking at what resources are currently working effectively. The initiative will support those existing programs and possibly create new ones to fill in any gaps.

The Homeless Alliance told News 4 it’s spent years fighting for an anti-poverty initiative.

“So we could actually put together a true poverty plan for Erie County that will move people forward,” said Dale Zuchlewski, the executive director.

Mayor Brown said Monday that the Homeless Alliance will need to be involved in the initiative. Zuchlewski told us he hopes the group will focus on paying people a livable wage and increasing the amount of affordable housing.

He said more than half of Buffalo renters pay 30 percent or more of their income on rent every month. The ratio of income spent on rent is higher for people living on minimum wage.

According to HUD, fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Buffalo is $755. Zuchlewski said a person making minimum wage would need to work 83 hours to just pay the rent, they also have expenses for child care, utilities and food.

“If you’re not giving someone a living wage everything else is moot,” he said. “You need money in order to pay your rent, to pay your bills, and the thing about people living in poverty, it’s not a character flaw, it’s a lack of money.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2014 nearly 31 percent of people in Buffalo lived in poverty.

Common Council President Darius Pridgen said it’s a systemic issue.

“We have a lot of poverty that’s passed on from generation to generation,” said Pridgen. “You have some families where very few people in their families have jobs because they have not received the training to know, simple things to some, like resume writing, how to show up to an interview, and not only how to get a job but how to keep a job.”

He hopes the initiative will work on improving education and job training to help break the cycle of poverty.

Mayor Brown, Zuchlewski and Pridgen all agree it’s a positive step forward but just a drop in the bucket. It will take years to determine whether or not the initiative will have a lasting effect on poverty in Erie County.


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