CINCINNATI – A program that offers discounted bus fares for tens of thousands of low-income residents seeking work in Greater Cincinnati could be coming to an end.
Everybody Rides Metro – a nonprofit that helps nearly 100 local social service agencies offer affordable bus rides to their clients – is losing its main source of funding starting in 2017.
The cuts put at risk transportation for more than 30,000 local residents who use the discounted bus rides to get to new jobs or as they hunt for work.
“We’ve had over $200,000 coming in every year from the federal government, which is going to be tough to replace,” said Joe Curry, executive director of Everybody Rides Metro. “This is a big hit for us.”
Curry said the cuts are due to the elimination of the Federal Transportation Administration's Job Access and Reverse Commute program. Officials with the FTA were not immediately available for comment.
Since its inception in 2008, Everybody Rides Metro has offered reimbursements to social service agencies for the cost of bus fares they cover for their clients as they look for work, get job training or start new jobs.
The foundation buys bus fares at full price from Metro, then sells them to their partner agencies, which include groups like Talbert House, Cincinnati Works and Lighthouse Youth Services. Once a social service agency has certified the fare has been given to a low-income resident, Everybody Rides Metro reimburses them for up to half their costs.
At Cincinnati Works, for example, Everybody Rides Metro has helped cover more than half of the agency’s $22,000 in annual transportation costs. The funding cuts mean dozens of nonprofits like Cincinnati Works are scrambling to find ways to replace the money or consider cuts elsewhere.
“It’s going to be a big hit,” said Peggy Zink executive director at Cincinnati Works, which helps more than 1,000 area residents each year with job searches and training.
“The cost of transportation when you’re not employed can keep you unemployed, and we try to remove that barrier by providing the bus passes,” Zink said. “We’re going to have to find this money another way, which may mean cutting in other areas."
For now, Everybody Rides Metro has enough money to operate through the end of the year. Including Curry, the nonprofit operates with just two part-time employees.
Over the next 30 days Curry says he expects to roll out a fundraising effort to keep the nonprofit running in 2017. In the past, the group has received additional support from major donors including The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, PNC Bank and Fifth Third Bank foundations.
“We’ll keep plugging away at this,” Curry said. “We’re putting together some information for potential donors. We hope we can keep the organization going.”