BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Department heads and representatives from migrant service organizations told Erie County legislators at a Thursday meeting the county has incurred nearly no extra costs since downstate migrants began arriving in early June.
They said the company DocGo, contracted and paid for by New York City, continues to handle all expenses connected to housing and providing things like food and clothing for the population staying in local hotels.
"As a leader of an organization that serves people, I really wish people did have access to more because it's very hard for families," Justice for Migrant Families Executive Director Jennifer Connor said.
The one exception, the Sheriff's Office told lawmakers, is the cost of keeping two migrants facing charges related to alleged sexual assaults in the county holding center. It said the tab is at roughly $50,000 so far.
Democratic Legislator Tim Meyers is sponsoring a resolution asking the federal government for reimbursement.
"I've said all along that it should not be state dollars spent. It should not be local dollars spent. The federal government opened the border. They should be picking up the tab," Meyers said.
Meanwhile, some legislators are asking for another informational meeting as soon as next week. The Republican minority conference said it still has plenty of questions as the district attorney, representatives from school districts and DocGo were absent.
"It's a mess and my constituents that I represent are really concerned about this issue," Minority Leader John Mills said.
Republican candidate for county executive Chrissy Casilio said the incumbent, Mark Poloncarz, also should have been present.
"He has the most information about this. He's the one that welcomed all of this and has been apparently the one in communication with New York City," she said.
Poloncarz said he doesn't serve at the will of the Legislature and has only appeared before the body twice during his tenure — both times about stadium contract negotiations with the Buffalo Bills.
"We have department heads. We have administrators. I know this is a political season but I have a great team that works with the Legislature to provide the information they require and has done today," he said.
The administration and resettlement agencies are also celebrating the White House's decision to provide temporary protective status to Venezuelans which they say should allow nearly half of the migrant population in hotels to immediately apply for work authorization, ultimately mitigating potential future costs to the county.
"We just are doing our best to stay on top of different immigration communities, what that means particularly for employment authorization, with the hopes that people are going to do best when they're fully members of our community," Jericho Road Chief Program Officer Anna Mongo said.
Jericho Road, a local resettlement agency subcontracted with DocGo, says it's also identified roughly 50 people who should be able to expedite work authorizations as well because they used the federal CBP One app when crossing the border.