New funding helps needy find transportation assistance

For low-income individuals, the struggle to maintain work can be the most difficult struggle in one’s life.

Simply getting to work can be the second-biggest issue. Absent vehicles, unreliable vehicles or a strict bus schedule can make getting back and forth a full-time job in itself.

To provide some assistance, Central Pennsylvania Community Action Inc. has developed the Vehicle Assistance Program. This pilot program, aided by a $150,000 block grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development, seeks to help low-income workers with vehicle purchases and other vehicle issues.

CPCA is partnering with the Center for Community Action and Blair County Community Action to cover Centre, Clearfield, Huntington, Fulton, Bedford and Blair counties.

Funding for these programs is awarded to organizations that want to try innovative programs on a regional scale, CPCA Executive Director Stacy LoCastro said. Many applied for the funding, but CPCA was chosen.

The lack of affordable housing creates longer commuting times, the release said. For Centre County, the average commute time is about 20 minutes. Reliable transportation is necessary to holding jobs due to long commute times.

“There’s still a struggle in this area with people who still have a job or a job offer but are stuck where they are,” LoCastro said. “There’s nothing between Clearfield and Centre counties, and once you’re outside of CATA, there’s not a good system set up.”

Even those who use public transit have troubles, she said. Although, she said, CATA is a great system, work schedules don’t always mesh with bus schedules, and it would be impossible to accommodate everyone’s needs.

The program will provide an allotment of up to $2,500 to help purchase a vehicle from a certified dealership, $1,000 for larger repairs and up to $50 for necessary services to keep the vehicle running, such as state inspections. CPCA will also work with local banks to provide low-interest loans and with the County Assistance Office, which can provide onetime grants of up to $1,500.

Those applying for grant funds must meet certain requirements. Individuals must be under 125 percent of the poverty line, currently working or have an offer of employment and without any other vehicle in the home.

So far, individuals seeing new vehicles versus vehicles needing repairs is about half and half, employment program coordinator Timothy Finney said. Some who seek funds may not even have a license, and the CPCA is able to work through that issue to help in obtaining permits and licenses.

The $150,000 grant is a one-time fund, and LoCastro said she hopes to find additional funding in the future to keep the program running.

“Trying to find the funding to do things like this anymore is difficult,” she said, “but they are out there.”

For more information, contact CPCA at 342-0404 or 800-822-2610.