A new federal program will to foster economic success among veterans.
The Veterans Economic Communities Initiative aims to lower rates of unemployment and homelessness among veterans.
Erie County is home to more veterans than most other counties across the nation, and among the first 28 communities to host the program.
Roger Woodworth is President and CEO of Veterans One-stop Center of Western New York. He said the program will promote job training, education, and provide other opportunities to veterans. Woodworth noted that advocates have set some ambitious goals.
“We would like to see the veterans' unemployment rate be 2 percent lower than it was when we started. We would like to see other veterans that are homeless – 70 percent of them – be rapidly rehoused,” he said.
Woodworth said the region, which is one of the top 50 counties in the U.S. in numbers of veterans, is well positioned for the program.
“The military is discharging 250,000 veterans a year. Western New York is ideally positioned as a community that’s friendly to veterans, has economic growth and success opportunities, has a great infrastructure as far as veterans’ communities, and has great educational institutions. We can see that veterans population growing,” said Woodworth.
The Department of Veteran Affairs is working with other national partners. Over the next two years, the department expects to roll out many activities, including career fairs for veterans, employment summits, and efforts to promote emotional health and well-being.