Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro joined the County Department of Community & Family Services (DCFS) and the Dutchess County Workforce Investment Board (DCWIB) to present three local families pre-owned vehicles as part of the Way to Work program.
Started in 2001, the program is designed to help low-income Dutchess County residents get and keep a job, providing them reliable transportation to and from work. Qualified participants must come from a family that receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or whose family income is less than 200 percent of the poverty level.
County Executive Molinaro said, “Today’s recipients are gaining more than a vehicle today; they’re gaining hope for a brighter future for themselves and their families in the form of reliable transportation that can take them to work and the grocery store, as well as their children’s school and doctor’s appointments. Each of today’s recipients has earned this opportunity at a better tomorrow through their dedication to successfully complete the ‘Way to Work’ program, making the commitment and sacrifice to make their dreams become reality through their hard work. Dutchess County is proud to offer this program, which has turned around the lives of hundreds of families throughout our community, and today we look forward to adding three more success stories to the program’s two decades of accomplishment.”
DCFS’s approach to help transition residents to work is a multi-faceted one that includes work skills training, daycare for eligible families, and the Way to Work program provided under contract by the DCWIB. Way to Work provides vehicles from local used car dealers to eligible individuals and provides participants training – such as car care and defensive driving – as well as assistance in obtaining a learner’s permit or driver’s license. The program also offers driver experience training, car maintenance instruction, and auto repairs.
These vehicles help families obtain and retain employment, acquire jobs with more hours or higher pay, gain access to higher education to increases the recipients’ wage potential, or take their children to and from school.
The families selected to receive the vehicles were chosen based on specific program guidelines, including their work-related need for transportation. In addition, they have all displayed the perseverance and commitment necessary to continually move forward toward financial independence. For every family that receives a car and avoids temporary assistance, Dutchess County saves $1,614 a month; within a year, that savings equals the cost of a new car.
DCFS Commissioner Sabrina Jaar Marzouka said, “Every individual who is receiving a pre-owned vehicle today had to earn it, investing the time and effort to ensure they’d qualify for this chance at a new life. We have seen the unparalleled success of this program; since its inception, 90 percent of vehicle recipients have remained independent from temporary assistance. Rather than making life easier for people in need by providing a handout, we are empowering them. We look forward to helping more qualified residents improve their own lives and the lives of their loved ones.”
The previous program, Dutchess County Community Solutions for Transportation, benefited more than 3,500 families since 2001, providing 909 cars, including several vehicles donated to local veterans, along with registration and car insurance deposits. In 2020, 45 residents participated in the program, receiving driving lessons, financial literacy and vehicle maintenance, among other components.
Among today’s recipients is a single mother of two sons, who works full-time to support her family, and create a better future for her children. Despite working a full-time job, it is difficult for this family to make ends meet. Reliable transportation will give this mother of two the opportunity to choose different shifts, to look for promotions, grocery shop as a family and properly bring her children to school. A vehicle isn’t just transportation for this family, but a chance to live a happier life.
Since the former program began in 2001, 312 Dutchess County residents have received their New York State learner’s permit; 1,052 people participated in driving experience classes; 505 individuals completed the five-hour, pre-licensing class; 492 passed their state road test and received a driver’s license; and 757 vehicle repairs were approved on behalf of program participants.
DCWIB Chair Sheila Appel said, “With our ‘Way to Work’ program, we know this is the hand up to help individuals garner the independence that many take for granted – a means to have reliable transportation. It is rewarding knowing you have the independence to take care of your family. Whether getting to and from a job, taking your children to appointments or just being able to go to the grocery store, it all boils down to self-sufficiency. I am proud that we have partnered with the county in helping find our neighbors reliable transportation to make life just a little easier.”