Transportation program in need of matching funds

Friday, March 11, 2005

In fiscal year 2004, the Missouri Goes to Work Program provided transportation to 1,400 people in Southeast Missouri who needed a ride to work, to a job interview or to get to job training.

Now, those who oversee the program -- the Workforce Investment Board of Southeast Missouri -- are seeking help in raising matching funds for a $1.2 million state grant to help pay to continue the program for the next two to three years.

"This program helps take away the barrier of transportation," said June O'Dell, manager of special projects for the Workforce Investment Board. "And for a lot of people, transportation is a barrier."

The board is holding a special meeting on April 5 at 3 p.m. at the board offices in Marquette Towers in Cape Girardeau. The board, which covers 13 counties in Southeast Missouri, is asking anyone interested in donating money to the cause -- or anyone interested in finding out how to donate -- to show up to learn more.

"It would be wonderful if there were some interest in this," O'Dell said. "We would hope that employers using the program to get their employees to work would participate. But in the past, very few have shown up."

On any given day, there are 20 to 25 routes across Southeast Missouri where people meet contracted transportation companies -- like Kelly Transportation and Cape County Transit locally -- who are paid by the board to give them a ride to work.

For example, a handful of people gather near Wal-Mart twice a day to get a ride to Gilster-Mary Lee in Perryville. Paying those companies costs money, O'Dell said.

The last time the board needed a grant was in 2001, when it got $800,000 from the Missouri Department of Transportation's Job Access and Reverse Commute Grant.

That money is expected to run out sometime after the end of the year. Grant proposals to renew the grant are due now, O'Dell said. But the board has to come up with $1.2 million in matching funds.

Whatever the community doesn't come up with comes from the board, she said.

"This program will continue," she said. "It helps a whole lot of people and is very valuable."

335-6611, extension 137

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