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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Policy Announcement for agency guidance on how these funds can be used.
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 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.
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
- 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
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:
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
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
- 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
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
Reported by the National Conference of State Legislatures
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.
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
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
report's analysis states five key findings:
- "Both rural counties and inner cities are isolated from the dispersed
job growth generated by suburbanized metropolitan economies.
Transportation is often listed as the leading barrier to getting and keeping a
job for those leaving welfare.
Public transportation systems operating in many metropolitan areas have been rendered
obsolete by the suburbanization of population and employment.
Private automobiles have been an overlooked solution.
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.
to Work: The Spatial Divide Between Jobs and Welfare Recipients in Metropolitan
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
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.
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: