Anti-labor trafficking efforts in Western New York are getting a big boost.
The federal government is awarding a $665,000 grant to the International Institute of Buffalo. This three-year grant supports the IIB’s Human Trafficking Survivor Support Services Program.
Federal lawmakers say trafficking is a form of modern day slavery.
U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins said the money will expand services and help identify survivors.
"Trafficking of minors in Western New York and across the country frequently falls under the radar to the detriment of far too many underserved youths," said Higgins. "This funding will help identify survivors of labor trafficking and assist them through the trauma resulting from their experiences so they can grow up to live safe and fulfilling lives."
Plus, efforts will expand to Niagara, Chautauqua, Genesee and Wyoming counties.
"The International Institute is honored to join our partners from Erie County and Best Self as we expand our ability to support minor survivors of labor trafficking," said Jennifer Rizzo-Choi, interim executive director at the International Institute of Buffalo. "Since 2006, IIB has offered safe, free, and confidential services for those affected by domestic violence and human trafficking. Our staff are recognized as national experts in this work and they have made this expansion of services possible. We are deeply grateful to Congressman Higgins for his leadership and support of advancing services for trafficking survivors in Western New York."
In 2020 alone, the Institute’s Survivor Support Services Program serves 143 minors, of which 17 were victims of labor trafficking.