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Working Families: Goals and Potential Community Strategies and Initiatives

Goal 1: Families in Erie County will have safe, affordable housing

The importance of safe, affordable housing cannot be understated. A home is not just a place where individuals and families start and end their day, but a foundation from which every-day people construct their lives, build their wealth, and conceive of their own personal American Dream. 

Increasingly however, rising rents and housing prices in the WNY housing market make finding affordable housing more difficult. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines affordable housing as the combined total of housing and utility costs that do not exceed 30% of an individual’s or family’s gross income per month.

In addition, much of the housing stock throughout WNY is quite old, leading to high concentrations in some zip codes of homes with lead hazards and children with lead poisoning. Lead from peeling and chipping paint puts young children at serious risk, negatively affecting their mental and physical development.

Potential Community Strategies and Initiatives

Strategy 1.2 Increase the production of affordable housing units in Erie County.             

Strategy 1.2 (A) Increase federal Home Investment Partnership (HOME) funding from HUD to continue to build new units of affordable rental housing.                                                 

Strategy 1.2 (B) Educate municipal Planning Boards on strategies to increase affordable housing in their municipalities.

Goal 2: Families in Erie County will have greater financial security

Financial security is an important social determinant of health and is essential if families are to thrive. Financial security is not just about earning enough money to pay for necessary expenses, but also enough to save for emergencies, education, and retirement.

Potential Community Strategies and Initiatives

Strategy 2.1 Erie County will help individuals accept promotions in their workplace by helping them over the “benefits cliff” through participation in the Erie County Workforce Development Pilot Program

Strategy 2.2 Opportunity Youth aged 16-24 who are not enrolled in school and not currently employed will have increased opportunities to find career pathways to local jobs with low barriers to entry that pay family sustaining wages and are in demand in our local labor market area

Goal 3: Childcare Infrastructure: Families in Erie County Will Have Access to Quality, Affordable Childcare

High-quality child care is essential to enable parents to get and keep a job and to give children a strong start toward success in life. Readily available child care strengthens our economy. Unfortunately many families, particularly low-to middle wage families, lack access to high-quality child care that parents need to work and children need to grow and thrive. 

Despite the fact that Erie County receives approximately 25 million dollars in funding for childcare subsidies, families in Erie County still struggle to access high quality child care. This often places families in a compromised position of having to choose between accessible quality licensed child care and employment, or if available, utilizing family and friends or unlicensed child care providers.

Potential Community Strategies and Initiatives
Strategy 3.1 Undertake a new study in partnership with Cornell University to explore the following research questions as an essential component in ensuring NYS childcare policy meaningfully addresses:
Providers: Has the childcare workforce continued to shrink? Can the childcare workforce support the current need for childcare? If not, why not?
Parents: Erie County DSS reports unused childcare subsidy dollars. This is true elsewhere in NYS. Why aren’t more parents taking advantage of the childcare subsidy? Is it a question of awareness? Or are they unable to find childcare because of the workforce challenges in the childcare industry.