Good Life

Helping Hands: Popular vehicle assistance program in need of funding

Central Pennsylvania Community Action is aware of the need for transportation in our two-county coverage area. In February, our agency created a vehicle assistance program to help members of low-income households in Centre and Clearfield counties who are struggling to maintain a job due to lack of a vehicle or a vehicle needing repairs.

There is a high concern regarding poverty in both counties — 21 percent of families in Centre County live in poverty, while 14.9 percent of the families in Clearfield County live in poverty. Centre County’s median income is $49,706 and Clearfield County’s is $40,768, both of which are less than the national median income of $53,046.

Vehicle problems are significant in Centre and Clearfield counties because the areas are mostly rural. The average commute in Centre County is 19 minutes, while the average commute in Clearfield County is even longer at 24 minutes.

The VAP offers an allotment of up to $2,500 to help purchase a vehicle from a certified car dealership, up to $1,000 for more extensive auto repairs and up to $50 to help fund necessary and required services to keep the vehicle running efficiently.

The program targets low income individuals who fall below 125 percent of the federal poverty income level; are currently employed or have an offer of employment with written proof; and don’t have a reliable vehicle to commute to the workplace . Program requirements include some form of financial counseling or education with CPCA, or, upon referral, an outside organization, such as Consumer Credit Counseling. CPCA also will assist the consumer in working with local lenders to provide loans for the purchase of a vehicle.

CPCA has received many calls regarding the program. All individuals are screened , usually via phone, prior to scheduling an appointment. The screenings are necessary due to the high demand for vehicle assistance.

At this time, we have approved 25 applicants and a waiting list with approximately 100 people. . The overwhelming response to this program shows the need for transportation assistance in our communities. Therefore, our agency is looking for funding sources to be able to continue the program.

It is CPCA’s mission to strengthen communities, in both Centre and Clearfield counties, by helping families and individuals to self-sufficiency. By helping low-income families acquire affordable, reliable transportation, the VAP helps those individuals connect to work and meet other family obligations.