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Our 2020 Annual Appeal

Dear Friends,

What a year it has been! When our partners came together at the start of 2020 to announce our collective Community Agenda, we could not have foreseen how urgent our policy priorities would quickly become. Before the pandemic, our partners called for eviction reform to keep people in their homes, water billing reform to ensure low-income people have access to this very basic need, and better food for our schoolchildren. Before the summer renewed a movement to address systemic racism, our partners called for alternatives to arrest for folks dealing with mental health or drug use, ending disparities in police and traffic enforcement, and ending the burden of criminal justice debt that falls mostly on our low-income neighbors of color.

Throughout the year, policy change in these areas became central to COVID-19 response and recovery. As the pandemic exposed deep structural problems in our community, our partners worked on the frontlines across health, housing, employment, education, legal services, immigrant/refugee support, and senior services. Together with them, we refocused our work to respond to the moment—taking on more rapid response work than ever before in PPG’s history.

We amplified partners’ experiences and challenges to local government officials and departments, as well as foundations and philanthropy. We researched gaps in local systems reported by our partners, building capacity by quickly connecting our partner organizations to each other based on needs—across neighborhoods and across sectors. We have extended support especially to small community groups doing critical work at the neighborhood level, which may otherwise have been overlooked by COVID-19 response programs. We continue to work toward policy and program solutions for both short-term emergency response and long-term equitable recovery.

Our work with the media allowed us to elevate important issues locally and nationally, from the Washington Post’s coverage of our work on water shut-offs, to Capital Tonight’s story on our solitary confinement savings report, to the recent Buffalo News Editorial calling for the closure of one of the Erie County jails—based on the fiscal analysis in our latest policy brief “Shrinking Jails, Rising Costs: Erie County’s Wasteful Jail Spending.” We also continued to convene our partners for virtual workshops on current issues, with bigger attendance than ever, on topics from Understanding the City Budget to Exploring Alternatives to Policing.

We’re ending this difficult year with a few big lessons to share with you:

Grassroots knowledge and community networks are powerful and necessary. We saw firsthand this year that community groups—as they always do—stepped up to fill the gaps in our systems which were so clearly magnified and exposed. Our partner network of 315 nonprofits and community groups provided valuable local knowledge and incredible leadership throughout the crisis.

We have a rare opportunity to pass transformative public policy changes. The COVID-19 pandemic and movement for racial equity have created more openness to overdue policy changes. We are taking advantage of this unique opportunity—we do not know how long it will last!—to advance equitable policies that PPG and our partners have recommended for years.

Together, we are ready for this moment. While this year brought unprecedented challenges, our partnership was prepared to meet communities’ immediate needs and advocate for long-term changes. We drew on our extensive past research to recommend policy changes that would not only address the impacts of COVID-19, but also build a more equitable region in the years ahead.

As a result, in the midst of hardship and loss, we won major policy changes in 2020. The Buffalo Common Council repealed 13 traffic fees that were disproportionately applied to residents of color, adopted a climate emergency declaration called for by young leaders, and passed proactive housing inspection legislation to improve housing conditions. New York State adopted a water shut-off moratorium, and Buffalo Water announced a water bill amnesty and improved bill pay program. The City announced many of the police reforms we’ve been calling for since 2016—the use of fix-it tickets, stop receipts, and reduced arrests for the lowest level offenses. Read more in the summary of our 2020 policy wins below.

Despite this year’s progress, there is much more to be done to build a just Buffalo Niagara. Community members have been impacted this year by COVID-19, by social isolation, by lack of basic needs like food and water, and together we are determined to build a community more resilient to crisis and more equitable for all.

Please consider a donation at to help us continue this work during this extraordinary time.

Very truly yours,

Andrea Ó Súilleabháin

Executive Director