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Late payments by state blamed for expected Buffalo layoffs

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — About 200 carpenters and other tradesmen working on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's signature economic development project are receiving layoff notices because of an apparent payment issue with the state. An official with the United Association of Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 22...

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — About 200 carpenters and other tradesmen working on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's signature economic development project are receiving layoff notices because of an apparent payment issue with the state.

An official with the United Association of Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 22 said his union alone expected about 120 workers on the state-backed SolarCity solar factory in Buffalo to be out of work at the end of their shifts Friday. Members of a carpenter's union also were laid off, though a union official said he has been assured the problem will be resolved soon.

The payment was being processed as of Friday night, according to a statement from Jason Conwall, spokesman for the Empire State Development Corporation, the state's economic development agency. Conwall said the project remains on schedule.

Officials did not respond to questions about the reason for the delay or the size of the late payment. The Democratic governor has repeatedly cited SolarCity as an example of his administration's efforts to jumpstart the economy in Buffalo and western New York.

The layoffs should be short-lived, said Daryl Bodewes, a spokesman for the Northeast Carpenters Union.

"We are pleased with the response from the state and are assured that the state is working to resolve these issues immediately," he said.

State Sen. Timothy Kennedy, D-Buffalo, said Friday that his office had received assurances from the state as late as Friday morning that no layoffs would occur.

"I am furious; this development is unacceptable and should be corrected immediately to prevent work delays and ensure no one is laid off," he said in a statement. "We've been in constant communication with the administration throughout yesterday evening and today to ensure that this situation is immediately rectified, and I won't rest until the payment issue is corrected and the workers are back on schedule."

New York is spending $750 million to build a 1 million-square-foot manufacturing plant for SolarCity as part of Cuomo's Buffalo Billion economic development program. SolarCity has committed to investing $5 billion over 10 years, hiring almost 1,500 workers at the plant for five years and employing at least 2,000 more people across the state.

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