Local Families Receive Vehicles from ‘Wheels to Work’ Program

Poughkeepsie –  Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro joined the County Department of Community & Family Services (DCFS) and Dutchess County BOCES today to present five local families with pre-owned vehicles as part of the Community Solutions to Transportation (CST), also known as the “Wheels to Work” program.

Started in 2001, the “Wheels to Work” program is designed to help low-income residents obtain or 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, “The vehicles represent a much-needed chance to provide a better life for themselves and their families – new or better employment, dependable transportation to and from doctor’s appointments and school functions for their children and the ability to purchase nutritious food from the grocery store. These recipients have dedicated the time and effort to change their lives, and Dutchess County looks forward to their continued success.”

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 CST program, provided under contract by Dutchess County BOCES.  “Wheels to Work” provides vehicles from local used car dealers to eligible individuals and provides participants training – such as car care and defensive driving classes – as well as assistance in obtaining a learner’s permit or driver’s license.  The CST program also offers driver experience training, car maintenance instruction, auto repairs and budgeting.

These vehicles will 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, on average, $1,614 a month. Within a year, that savings exceeds the cost of a car.

DCFS Commissioner Sabrina Jaar Marzouka said, “These vehicles will help each of our recipients become self-sufficient, an important step toward helping them reach their goals. Today’s recipients have earned the vehicles they’ve received, having put in the hard work and time to meet the program’s requirements. Since the program began, 99 percent of the recipients no longer need or receive temporary assistance – a testament to the success of the program.”

Dutchess County Community Solutions for Transportation has benefited more than 3,500 families since 2001, providing 889 cars – along with registration and car insurance deposits – 887 vehicles were donated to participating CST families; and an additional two vehicles have been donated to local veterans through a new collaborative component added to the CST program this year.

Among today’s recipients is a young, single mother of a toddler. She came to CST after realizing she needed to change her life to better support her daughter. She took driving classes and obtained her license, then enrolled in Nursing Assistant classes at Dutchess BOCES. At the same time, she worked at Dunkin’ Donuts to earn an income. Since completing Nursing Assistant classes, she worked as a Personal Care Assistant while preparing to retake her Nursing Assistant Certification test. Without reliable personal transportation, she has had to schedule her work hours around her mother’s schedule so she has child care and transportation to work; that often means working weekends. The vehicle she received today will not only provide her reliable transportation to work, but will also assist in continuing her education towards becoming a Registered Nurse.

Among today’s other recipients was a local veteran who received a donated vehicle earlier this year through the new CST collaboration. The veteran is a local corrections officer, currently out of work due to an injury sustained on the job. He recently had surgery and plans on returning to work soon, but his injury made it impossible for him to drive his vehicle, an 18-year-old Audi, because of its standard transmission; additionally, that vehicle needed repairs which exceeded its value. This veteran has a fiancée, three daughters ages 1, 4 and 7, and they are expecting a boy in November; she works and has a vehicle, but it’s too small for the family and needs repairs. Once this veteran returns to work, the family will require two vehicles. The veteran was the recipient of a 2008 minivan to provide him with reliable transportation – not only to and from work, but to accommodate his entire family. When he learned of the vehicle he would be receiving through CST, he donated his old Audi to the program; although the vehicle was beyond repair, the money received from junking the car was added into the funds dedicated to help other local veterans with transportation issues.

Through the Community Solutions for Transportation program, 305 Dutchess County residents have received their New York State learner’s permit; 1,020 people participated in driving experience classes; 485 individuals completed the five-hour, pre-licensing class; 476 passed their state road test and received a driver’s license; and 869 vehicle repairs were approved on behalf of program participants since 2001.

Dr. Sherre Wesley, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services at Dutchess BOCES, said, “This collaboration with the County Department of Community & Family Services is one of our strongest and most successful.  It’s a partnership which benefits the Wheels to Work vehicle recipients by helping them overcome the transportation impediments to employment.  It benefits all County residents by increasing employment and reducing the need for assistance.  We look forward to continuing this truly life-changing partnership.”

County Executive Molinaro will present his 2019 Executive Budget on Monday, October 29th in the Legislature Chambers, ahead of the required November 1st deadline established by the Dutchess County Administrative Code. The 2019 Executive Budget will include expansion of the “Wheels to Work” program to provide vehicles for more local veterans