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A nearly $5 million federal grant designed to move some of Erie County's least employable welfare recipients from the public dole to the work force was awarded Friday to the Buffalo and Erie County Private Industry Council.

The $4,917,903 competitive grant was among 75 totaling more than $273 million announced in Washington by Labor Secretary Alexis Herman. More than 700 funding applications were submitted.

The PIC award will be distributed to 11 agencies working throughout the county to help find jobs for about 650 people who have substance abuse problems, lack high school diplomas or have developmental disabilities.

"It's a great opportunity," said Marie Kaczmarek, PIC planning director.

Working with the county Social Services and Mental Health departments and non-government agencies, PIC has moved hundreds of county welfare recipients into the job market in recent years. But resources to help the hardest-to-serve people find work have been lacking until now.

It's a nationwide challenge, Secretary Herman noted in a conference call with reporters.

The agencies that will put the federal money to work here are the Niagara Frontier Vocational Rehabilitation Center, People Inc., Learning Disabilities Association of Western New York, Suburban Adult Services and Goodwill Industries.

Also, Heritage Centers, Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled, Clarkson Center, Erie County Medical Center Vocational Recovery Program, Horizon Human Services and Lakeshore Behavioral Health Services.

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