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Niagara County lays off 22 part-time public defenders

Niagara County temporarily laid off 22 part-time assistant public defenders Wednesday as it deals with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the local economy and county finances.

The layoffs will last through July 31, though County Manager Richard E. Updegrove said their length could be reconsidered if courts return to normal operations before then.

Some arraignments and a few other court proceedings are taking place in Niagara County, but generally, attorneys ā€” and sometimes even judges ā€” appear remotely, via video connections. Two full-time assistant public defenders were not laid off and can handle those cases.

Most of the part-time assistant public defenders earn about $44,000 a year, though a few are paid more. They also receive health insurance through the county, and the layoffs will not change those benefits, Updegrove said.

Last week, the county laid off 15 part-time workers at the county's congregate nutrition sites, which are closed because of the pandemic. Those layoffs also last through July 31. Those workers never received health benefits, Updegrove said. Most earn $14,000 to $19,000 a year.

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