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Supportive Services Resources - Welfare to Work Vouchers

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 -   Transportation for WtW Voucher Recipients
 -   Planning Transportation Services
 -   Developing Partnerships
 -   Innovative Transportation Options
 -   Research and Other Resources

Transportation for Welfare to Work Voucher Recipients

Transportation services are an integral component of the WtW Voucher Program. Housing authorities may find that many participants do not own vehicles, and thus need assistance both accessing and paying for transportation services. The transportation needs of program participants will be highly individualized. Many WtW participants may find themselves working evening and weekend shifts, when regular public information is either unavailable or infrequent. Furthermore, participants may need to make multiple stops, dropping and picking up children from daycare, attending training courses, and taking advantage of other supportive services.

Because existing transportation alternatives may not meet the diverse needs of participants, housing authorities should consider flexible, innovative approaches. Many programs and services may already exist within your community, and developing partnerships with existing service providers may be the best strategy for ensuring client needs are met while at the same time preventing the duplication of efforts.

Planning Transportation Services

While there is no single blueprint for successful transportation solutions, housing authorities should take time to assess their clients' needs, and in response, develop successful transportation solutions for their voucher recipients.

Assess Client Needs. Survey a sample of Welfare to Work voucher recipients. This will help to demonstrate the extent of the problem to potential funding sources and partners, and better define recipient needs for PHA staff. Recipients who are entering the workforce need a reliable, consistent, flexible, and inexpensive mode of transportation to jobs and childcare providers.

Identify the Market and the Systems Already in Place. Identify the transportation systems operating in the community, both formal and informal. With increased numbers of people commuting to work, current transportation systems may have the ability and incentive to be more responsive to user needs. Knowing the needs of WtW voucher recipients, housing authorities may be able to coordinate with an existing program to affect the capacity, destinations, and schedules of available transit options.

Seek Links to Employers and other Service Providers. Think about the links between transportation to essential destinations such as jobs and childcare. Use these links to identify potential transportation partnerships with employers - they may have innovative ideas on how to transport voucher recipients from their homes to the workplace.

Don't Limit Your Ideas. During the planning and design stages, avoid limiting your thinking to what type of vehicle or method of transportation should be used. Brainstorm innovative methods to transport people to jobs. There are many ways to provide mobility that do not include the purchase of expensive vehicles or the delay in hearing whether or not federal/state grants have been awarded.

  • Carpools, cab vouchers, bus passes/tokens, loaned vans, mileage reimbursement, volunteer drivers, bicycles and private cars are among the alternatives that can serve your Welfare to Work voucher recipients. In fact, a combination of several strategies may best meet your clients' needs.

Encourage Local Support. The early support of local or regional transit agencies and city or county government staff can be critical to the planning and funding of transportation solutions. By developing partnerships with transit agencies, housing authorities can take advantage of existing transportation services, and focus on adapting them to the needs of voucher recipients (e.g. expanded routes, longer hours).

Consider Long-term Support through Federal/State Funding. The competitive grant application process may be time-consuming, but can provide a solid source of funding for transportation services. Housing authorities and partner TANF agencies may want to investigate and apply for grants that match their needs.

Consider Using Unspent TANF funds. In the planning process, housing authorities should investigate the amount of unspent TANF funds in their state. TANF funds can be used to develop transportation services - view the TANF Policy Announcement for agency guidance on how these funds can be used.

Developing Partnerships

After analyzing the transportation needs of voucher recipients, the next step is to develop effective partnerships. Housing authorities should build strong relationships with existing transit agencies and other community groups since these organizations may offer immediate assistance in transporting recipients to their new jobs.

Assess Community Resources. It is important to first identify the variety of resources that are available to help accomplish transportation goals for your Welfare to Work voucher recipients. Housing authorities should examine existing relationships with nonprofit organizations and local employers that could be expanded to include transportation assistance.

Choose Effective Partners. When pursuing partnerships with organizations that have already developed transportation programs, housing authorities should evaluate these programs for consistency with the mission of their Welfare to Work voucher program. Key attributes of existing programs include low-cost to the recipient, flexibility in terms of time and location, and reliability.

Develop Partnerships with Transit Authorities. Local or regional transit authorities can offer transportation planning and operations expertise, provide links to financial resources, and represent a potential source of financial assistance and equipment for transportation solutions. Not only are they a service provider in the community, but they are likely to know about other community transportation solutions as well.

Develop Partnerships with the Business Community. In many communities, local businesses, particularly large employers, play an important role in providing transportation solutions. For example, employers may provide public transit passes on a pre-tax basis, free or discounted transit passes, company-sponsored vanpools, and flexible work hours to respond to employee commuting needs. The Partnership and Collaboration page contains more information on working effectively with the business community.

Innovative Transportation Options

Innovative ideas can help PHAs tailor transportation options to better fit recipient needs. This section discusses 5 types of resources that can help provide transportation to low-income populations: ridesharing partnerships, car ownership programs, loan programs, federal funding programs, and State TANF Funds and Department of Labor Welfare to Work Grants.

Ridesharing Partnerships
Ridesharing involves pre-arranging the transportation of passenger groups in a single vehicle. Vehicle options include vanpools, carpools, and shared ride taxi services. Housing authorities can use funds to purchase a vehicle and use community volunteers or voucher recipients to drive the van and carpools.

  • Vanpool services are designed to allow groups of people to travel on a prearranged, regular basis by van. Vanpools may be publicly operated, employer operated, individually owned, or leased. They can be more readily set up than fixed-route services and are cheaper to operate because the driver is not a paid employee but rather a rider in the vanpool. In an unsubsidized vanpool, operating costs are shared equally among the passengers. Employment programs may also elect to subsidize vanpool costs, either for passengers or an entire vehicle.

  • Carpools are similar to vanpools except that the rider capacity is less. Typically, the driver of the car is the car owner.

  • Shared-ride taxi service is a service in which riders with similar points of origin and destination group together to share the cost of a taxi trip. Housing authorities may be able to form partnerships with local taxi companies to receive discounted trips for groups of recipients travelling to jobs in the same vicinity.

  • Volunteer services draw upon drivers from the community. Drivers are not paid for their services, but may be reimbursed for their expenses. These programs are typically coordinated by a nonprofit agency or community-based program and allow for flexibility. While volunteer programs can be a dependable option to get people to job training, communities have faced many problems with using volunteers to get employees to employment sites. Before initiating a volunteer program designed for work trips, first explore the potential barriers and reliability of this option.

Car Ownership Programs
Car ownership programs can be an effective alternative when public transportation and ridesharing options are not feasible, particularly in rural areas. In many states, vehicle ownership programs are small and initially were funded with non-TANF funds. However, TANF funds have helped states and counties leverage their resources so they can now reach a broader group of low-income families. For more information, view the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities paper "State and County Supported Car Ownership Programs Can Help Low-Income Families Secure and Keep Jobs." This paper examines how car ownership can help low-income families obtain and maintain employment and provides examples of existing car ownership programs.

Loan Programs
The Ways to Work: A Family Loan Program was established by The McKnight Foundation to provide small loans to low-income parents, thereby helping family members pay for unexpected expenses (such as car repairs) that could interfere with their ability to keep a job or stay in school. The program involves the following components:

  • Families apply for "loans of various sizes, ranging from $750 for car repairs up to $3,000 for purchasing a used car. Loans can also be put toward childcare, mortgages, or other products and services.
  • Applicants are required to repay the loan within two years. Like a bank or a credit union, Ways to Work uses a pool of money at modest interest rates; when the money is paid back, it is loaned again."

To learn more about the program, contact Marsha Duffek by e-mail or by phone: 800-221-3726, ext. 3667. You can also view their Web site (look for the Ways to Work icon on the site).

Federal Funding Programs
The Department of Transportation (DOT) offers a variety of programs that target low-income, newly employed workers with transportation needs. Housing authorities can take advantage of these program funds to create their own services, and they can also work with employers to incorporate reimbursement programs into their benefits package. Two programs are highlighted below. For more information and descriptions of other transportation programs, visit FTA's Web site.

  • Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21)
    Under TEA-21, employers can reimburse employees $65 dollars a month for their transportation costs on transit or in vanpools, and deduct the reimbursements as an employee benefit. Housing authorities can work with employers to receive funding under TEA-21. After December 31, 2001, the non-taxable transit and vanpool benefits will increase to $100 a month. In addition, employers can pay directly for an employee's transit and vanpool expenses. The costs can also be deducted from the employee's paycheck on a pre-tax basis.

  • Welfare to Work Initiative
    This program provides communities with funds to support transportation services specifically targeted to transport welfare recipients and other low-income workers to their jobs. TANF funds and DOL Welfare to work funds can also be used as matching funds under this program.

State TANF Funds and Department of Labor Welfare to Work Grants
To better coordinate and leverage funds, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Labor issued an updated joint guidance on the use of TANF and DOL Welfare to Work funds for transportation services on May 26, 2000.

As a result, TANF and Welfare to Work funds can be used for the following transportation activities:

  • As a match for the Job Access and Reverse Commute program;

  • As a contract for shuttles, buses, car pools, or other transportation services;

  • As a reimbursement for work-related transportation expenses, such as mileage, fuel, public transit fares, and auto repairs;

  • For the purchase of vans, shuttles, and/or minibuses for the provision of transportation services to eligible individuals;

  • For the payment of start-up costs for new or expanded transportation services; and

  • For facilitating the donation and repair of previously owned or reconditioned vehicles.

For a more detailed discussion of how housing authorities can use TANF and DOL Welfare to Work funds to support transportation programs, visit DHHS's TANF Policy Announcement page. To find out more about how TANF funds can be used with state and county funds to support car ownership programs, view the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities paper "State and County Supported Car Ownership Programs Can Help Low-Income Families Secure and Keep Jobs."

Research and Other Resources

Keys to Employment
Reported by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
This NCSL Legisbrief looks at the average costs of owning a car (1993 Honda Civic CX) in nine cities across the country, as well as discusses some state programs that help low-income people obtain a car.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition's (NLIHC) 2001 Advocate's Guide to Housing and Community Development Policy
Owning a car is a large fiscal burden and may not be feasible for many low-income families. In this guide, the NLIHC looks at different methods of transportation and provides links to relevant resources and programs.

Working Far From Home: Transportation and Welfare Reform in the Ten Big States
One of the key aspects of welfare reform is moving low-income people from welfare to work. Many research studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of providing substantive economic opportunities for people leaving welfare. This report looks at how transportation issues are shaping the context of welfare reform and how providing reliable transportation can open economic opportunities for low-income people.

The report's analysis states five key findings:

  1. "Both rural counties and inner cities are isolated from the dispersed job growth generated by suburbanized metropolitan economies.
  2. Transportation is often listed as the leading barrier to getting and keeping a job for those leaving welfare.
  3. Public transportation systems operating in many metropolitan areas have been rendered obsolete by the suburbanization of population and employment.
  4. Private automobiles have been an overlooked solution.
  5. Transportation assistance is an essential component of any meaningful commitment to making work pay for families with modest incomes."

View this report in its entirety for more information.

Barriers to Work: The Spatial Divide Between Jobs and Welfare Recipients in Metropolitan Areas
This study was conducted by the Brookings Institute Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy. Four observations on employment opportunities and transportation options guide this report and lead to policy recommendations:
1. Low-income transportation programs are difficult to execute and may need to be integrated with other services and remain flexible in order to accommodate the work schedules of entry-level workers.
2. Increasing mobility of central city workers by allowing them to travel to and from suburban jobs will likely increase family earnings and thereby increase the capital flowing back into urban neighborhoods.
3. Job placement strategies are most-effective when they distinguish between outer- and inner-ring suburbs; they should not be demand-driven by placing workers in jobs regardless of the distance from the city or whether the quality of the wage outweighs the opportunity cost of the commute.
4. Transportation solutions should aim to enact changes (both incremental and systematic) that create transportation equity for low-income people and improve long-term transportation systems for families of all incomes.

View this report in its entirety for more information.

Other Online Resources
For more information on transportation options for WtW voucher recipients, refer to the following online resources:

 -   Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA)
 -   National Transit Resource Center
 -   Welfare Information Network "Transportation and Welfare Reform"
 -   Department of Transportation
 -   Federal Transit Administration, Department of Transportation
Job Access and Reverse Commute Initiative
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