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The Eastside-Airport Metro Rail Extension

Citizens for Regional Transit — Aug 23, 2019

This policy brief provides information regarding the expansion of NFTA metro-rail services in east-side Buffalo to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. 

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Low-Wage Work in Buffalo-Niagara

Sam Magavern, John Sullivan Baker — Nov 20, 2018

This policy brief presents data on Buffalo-Niagara workers with a median wage of less than $15 per hour. It includes a list of all the occupations that fall into that low-wage category, along with the number of workers in each occupation and the hourly wage. Setting the data in the context of de-unionization and the shift from manufacturing to service jobs, it analyzes the loss in job quality and offers recommendations for reversing it. The brief was researched by Cornell University High Road …

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The Consequences of Being Unbanked in Buffalo

Jessica Gilbert — Feb 28, 2018

This policy brief was drafted by Jessica Gilbert, a research associate at the Partnership for the Public Good and a Ph.D. student in geography at the University at Buffalo. It offers national and local information about people who lack bank accounts and describes some of the impacts of being “unbanked,” including reliance on exploitative services such as check cashing, rent to own stores, and pawn shops. This research supports the work of the Buffalo Niagara Community Reinvestment …

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A Raise for Fast Food Workers Will Help Western New York

Sam Magavern — Jun 3, 2015

The most pressing problems in Western New York in many areas of life, including education, healthcare, and criminal justice, can be traced to a single root: poverty.  Families living in poverty suffer from lower graduation rates, more chronic diseases, and more criminal violence than families earning living wages.  In our region, as around the nation, roughly 45% of workers are employed in low-wage service sector jobs.  Those jobs are not going away; in fact, they are the fastest …

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A True Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers

Sam Magavern Nov 13, 2014

The most pressing problems in Western New York in sectors such as education, health, and crime can be traced to a single root: poverty.  Families living in poverty suffer from lower graduation rates, more chronic diseases, and more criminal violence than families earning living wages.  In our region, as around the nation, roughly 45% of workers are employed in low-wage service sector jobs.  Those jobs are not going away; in fact, they are the fastest growing occupations in the …

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Raising the Minimum Wage: Key Facts and Figures

Sam Magavern Oct 28, 2014

In New York State, roughly 37% or workers earn low wages (less than $15 per hour, or $31,200 per year).  In Erie County, the percentage is 41% (159,800 of 393,600 wage-earning workers).  94% of low wage workers in New York State are age 20 or over.  67% of those earning low wages are working 35 hours per week or more.  51% of those earning low wages have some college education or more.  53% of low-wage workers are female.  53% are white, 18% are black, 21% are …

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Casino Gambling will Create More Costs Than Benefits in New York State

Michael Cimasi, Alexis Leonard — Oct 16, 2013

In November 2013, New York State voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to expand casino gambling.  Currently, the state has five casinos run by Indian tribes.  The proposed amendment would allow up to seven non-tribal casinos in areas not including New York City and not including areas, such as Western New York, where the state is bound by an exclusivity agreement with an Indian tribe.  A law expanding casino gambling has passed the state legislature, but, …

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State Funding for the NFTA Reduces Pollution, Fights Poverty, and Promotes Economic Development

Robert Grimaldi Feb 7, 2012

New York State should support public transit in Buffalo-Niagara by increasing Transit Operating Assistance and increasing the NFTA’s allocation of low-cost electric power.  There is no more effective tool for reducing pollution, cutting poverty, and promoting economic development than affordable and comprehensive mass transit.  In recent years, New York State has been cutting its funding to the NFTA, even as the NFTA’s costs have been rising.  State funding has been …

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Unemployment and Poverty in Western New York

Owen Field — Apr 29, 2010

It is a common understanding that a high unemployment rate means that more people are out of work and therefore more people have fallen into poverty.  But the relationship between unemployment and poverty is complex, and the two may not always relate very directly.  It is necessary to examine states, counties, and even cities separately to determine the extent of this relationship and the possibilities of other influential factors.

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Who is Living in Poverty and Why?

Sam Magavern — Apr 29, 2010

In thinking about poverty, it is common to focus on those places and populations where the poverty rate is the highest, where poverty is the most concentrated and visible.  Thus, many associate poverty with inner city residents, people of color, high school drop-outs, never-married mothers, and people without jobs – all of whom suffer from disproportionately high rates of poverty.  There are both good and bad reasons to focus attention on these groups, but it is important to …

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Drug Testing by Potential Employers

Neil Diegelman — Apr 28, 2010

New York State should pass laws that regulate pre-employment drug testing in order to maximize fairness, accuracy, and efficiency while recognizing employers’ needs to maintain a drug-free workplace.  Drug testing, when done properly, is quite accurate and has standardized procedures to ensure fairness.  A pre-employment drug test can be an effective way for an employer to check on factors influencing whether an applicant will be productive or continuously tardy or have attitude …

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Transportation and Low Wage Work

Michael Raleigh — Apr 28, 2010

Living on a low wage can be extremely difficult, yet the number of low wage jobs in metro Buffalo grew by 17% from 2004 to 2008.  This means that many more people are struggling to figure out how to survive with less money.  It also means that it is becoming increasingly difficult for many people to afford transportation.  As the location of employment has dispersed throughout the region, transportation has become a basic need similar to food, clothing, and shelter.  A …

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Children First! Child Care Assistance in Erie County

Alexa Rissoff — Apr 27, 2010

Child care subsidies are distributed in each county in New York by the county’s Department of Social Services.  Due to a drop in state funding, Erie County has changed its eligibility level from 200% to 125% of the poverty line.  The former level for eligibility should be reinstated because subsidized child care has social, financial and societal benefits.

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Strengthening Unemployment Insurance

Robert Mietlicki — Apr 27, 2010

A person’s eligibility for unemployment insurance in New York State is determined by the New York State Unemployment Insurance Law.  A person may be eligible for benefits if he lost his job due to a lack of work, such as the end of seasonal or temporary employment or the downsizing of a company.  A person may also be eligible if he was fired because he did not meet an employer’s qualifications for a job.  A worker may be denied unemployment benefits if he was fired …

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The Problem of Worker Misclassification

Ryan Parisi — Apr 27, 2010

Employee misclassification is a significant problem that continues to plague the labor market. Unscrupulous and unknowing employers alike are costing individual workers and society tremendously. Not only are workers missing out on legal protections, but society is losing contributions from employers that should be paid into different employment systems (payroll taxes, unemployment benefits, workers compensation benefits, etc.).

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Criminal Convictions and Employment Rights in New York State

Robert Strassel — Apr 26, 2010

New York has a strong policy toward preventing discrimination based on prior criminal convictions and its progressive policy outlook should encouraged.  In 2007 a report concluded that New York employees were largely unfamiliar with State laws regulating an employer’s use of prior criminal convictions for employment-related decisions, and in response, the legislature amended Section 296 of New York Executive Law to require employers to post and disseminate information regarding a job …

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Education Levels and Low-Wage Work

Dannine Consoli — Apr 26, 2010

Is education the key to getting low-wage workers out of poverty and into higher paying, middle class jobs? In the United States, roughly one in three jobs pays a low wage.  The Center for Economic and Policy Research defines “low wage” as less than 66 percent of the median wage for male workers (the median weekly pay rate for men in the fourth quarter of 2009 was $825).  Employees with higher levels of education do have a significantly lower probability of working a …

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How to Improve Erie County's Work First Program

Rachel Jones — Apr 26, 2010

The major shift to a welfare to work model happened in 1996 with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act.  This federal law aimed to decrease dependency on public assistance by – among other things – forcing people to work for their assistance.  Erie County did not need this Act to focus on work. Erie County Department of Social Services has been enforcing work requirements and operating as a work first county since 1988.  In 1994, the County created its …

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Overtime Violations

Lisa Diaz-Ordaz — Apr 26, 2010

Overtime violations are especially prevalent in low wage jobs.  Some of the industries with notably high instances of violations include the restaurant and hotel industries, retail, drug and grocery stores, private households and home health care.  Within these industries, occupations with the most overtime violations include childcare workers, home health care workers, waiters and bartenders, cooks and food preparers, retail salespeople, cashiers and stock clerks.  A quick …

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TANF and Higher Education

Leah Hardy — Apr 26, 2010

Welfare reforms in 1996 created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Block Grant program (TANF).  Under the assumption that a job will provide recipients with a path to self-sufficiency, this program focuses primarily on putting them to work.  Unfortunately, this work-first focus has not resulted in a path out of poverty for the majority of recipients.  New York State must reform its TANF program to provide relevant education and training for its recipients, equipping them …

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Paid Sick Leave: Should Investing in the Workforce be Mandatory?

Stuart Frame — Apr 22, 2010

Paid sick leave is a benefit supplied to employees: it means that they are allotted a certain amount of days every year when they can call in sick and the employer still pays them for a full day of work. Roughly 86% of U.S. workers currently receive at least some paid sick leave as a benefit from their employers.  While workers at larger businesses have more paid leave than workers at smaller firms, in every sector of the economy the vast majority of workers get paid sick leave.  Most …

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Playing an Insecure Hand

Kasia McDonald Feb 1, 2010

For a growing number of families and workers in Western New York, low-wage work is the only—or the last—employment option.  In 2009, one out of four jobs in the region were in occupations where the median annual wage fell below the poverty line for a family of four.  This rising reliance on low-wage work is a discouraging change from the post-war economic boom when incomes and standards of living soared—a period that continues to shape our employment and lifestyle …

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City of Buffalo Living Wage Ordinance

City of Buffalo — Dec 31, 2007

The city awards many contracts to private firms to provide services to the public and to city government. Experience indicates that procurement by contract of services has all too often resulted in the payment by service contractors to their employees of wages at or slightly above the minimum required by federal and state minimum wage laws.  Such minimal compensation tends to inhibit the quantity and quality of services rendered by such employees to the city and to the public.  …

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Poverty: A State of Extremes

The League of Women Voters of Buffalo/Niagara Oct 1, 2006

New York was the only state where both poverty and income exceeded national levels in 2005, with 13.8% of residents living in poverty and a median household income of $49,480.  This high poverty/high income paradox underscores a widening ‘wealth gap’ observed in New York and nationwide.  Buffalo Niagara differed from the state in 2005, with a poverty rate (12.7%) close to the U.S. average and a median household income that was $4,000 below the U.S. median.  Within the …

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