Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is being asked to overturn a state Department of Health decision that could result in the elimination of more than 40 jobs based on Buffalo’s East Side and also jeopardize millions in U.S. Department of Labor workforce training funds.
Since 2007, the state has contracted with the Center for Transportation Excellence to act as the Medicaid mobility manager for Erie County. Recently, the state has decided to pull the contract from CTE and award it to Syracuse-based Medical Answering Services.
That decision is confounding to Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, who on Saturday met with others outside CTE headquarters at 401 East Amherst St. to protest the state’s decision. In addition to company officials and employees, he was joined by State Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo.
“I’m disappointed, to say the least, because it seems like they’re just using this firm and utilizing it everywhere in upstate New York without truly showing that it has the capability of delivering those services and doing it better than the local firm, which has been doing a fantastic job,” said Poloncarz.
CTE was created with about $5.5 million in private investment, as well as a $750,000 Empire State Development grant. The company manages transportation services for Medicaid recipients in one of the county’s most underserved areas. While it is not expected that those clients would lose any services under Medical Answering Services, more than 40 CTE employees who provide those services now will likely lose their jobs, said Paul L. Snyder IV of CTE.
“It will have a devastating impact on our community. We’re the largest employer in our area. This is an area that doesn’t have any other commercial employment opportunities, other than a bus company next door,” Snyder said.
In addition, CTE and the Buffalo region stand to lose millions in federal funds distributed to four local nonprofit organizations that provide workforce development training to youthful ex-offenders. If the contract award is not reversed, more than $2.6 million in federal funds now allocated to Buffalo could be re-allocated to other sites across the country, critics argued.
“This decision by Albany is shortsighted and we must not let it stand,” said Peoples-Stokes, in whose district CTE is located.
Poloncarz said Erie County has experienced only success with CTE, noting that the county Department of Social Services has advocated to the Department of Health that the state retain the company’s services.
“First, they provide tremendous service. Second, they employ individuals right here in the City of Buffalo on the East Side. They’ve done a very good job over the last few years.” Poloncarz said.