It’s a tale of two stories. While some business owners are struggling to put food on the table as they’ve been forced to close to their livelihoods, an elected official’s administration has spent approximately $227,517.67 of taxpayer money on food for government employees.
That money comes directly from the federal funds intended to be used to address COVID related issues, according to a press release from Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw.
“When the federal government sent Erie County $160 million to protect our community from COVID, is this what they wanted CARES Act recovery funds to be spent on? Overtime, holiday pay and food for salaried, political workers? The Poloncarz Administration uses tax dollars to feed and enrich the paychecks of the well connected. Businesses close. COVID numbers surge. Yet the Poloncarz Administration pats itself on the back,” said Comptroller Mychajliw.
As of December 4, 2020, approximately $227,517.67 in COVID funds were spent to purchase food. Some of those food purchases include raw pork, pots and pans, and cutlery. A total of $44,320.01 has been spent at one pizzeria, and another $34,592.88 at one area bar and grill.
Most recent data available shows that $4,626,55 in overtime has been charged to the CARES Act fund, for 972 employees working 89,000 overtime hours. Of that amount, $1,020,910 in overtime was paid to 56 political appointees. The highest paid continues to be Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein, who has taken in $158,485 in overtime and holiday pay, in addition to her annual salary of $202,312. With those numbers, she’s on track to make over $360,000 even if she doesn’t collect another penny of overtime this year. That’s up from a report on November 23, where she had made $147,249 to that point.
The press release in addition reads “Erie County punitively punishes businesses with COVID fines. The Poloncarz Administration is destroying small businesses, while lining the pockets of the politically connected. Some salaried, political appointees earned more overtime in nine months than most blue-collar workers make in five years. People are struggling. Many lost jobs, even their homes. The Health Commissioner continues to cash in on the COVID pandemic. At the same time her department barges into businesses accompanied by police, shutting them down and issuing fines. Cutting off people’s ability to make a living, while almost doubling her own salary”