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More workers in South Bend will get help paying for Uber, Lyft, Transpo rides. Here’s why.

Jeff Parrott | South Bend Tribune

Originally posted Sept 29 | Link

SOUTH BEND —  A city of South Bend grant-funded, employer-based program that helps pay for workers’ Uber, Lyft and Transpo rides to and from work will soon also help a group of nonprofits’ low-income clients access jobs and a wide range of other things.

The city’s Ride Guarantee, launched in September 2019 with help from enFocus and a $1 million grant that the Mayor Pete Buttigieg administration won from Bloomberg Philanthropies, is partnering with United Way of St. Joseph County in the new venture. This summer they received applications from 22 nonprofits and picked 11 whose clients will start receiving the services on Friday.

The existing employer-based program caps the price of Uber and Lyft rides at $5 and gives unlimited free Transpo bus rides. It will let the nonprofit clients choose four free Uber rides per month and an unlimited Transpo pass, or 10 free Uber rides per month. Users must pay any costs above $35 for Uber or Lyft rides, and the rides must start or end in the county.

The nonprofit clients will be able to use the service for rides to and from jobs, education, health care, child care, accessing food and social services.

“For us, the one thing we hear over and over is the lack of transportation being the number one barrier,” said United Way of St. Joseph County CEO Laura Jensen. “It’s something we think is really exciting and we’re grateful to be able to do.”

The United Way, using a Lilly Endowment grant passed down through the Indiana United Way, is paying $180,000 to fund the pilot project for a year, while the city is paying $60,000 from the Bloomberg money. Jensen is talking with potential donors to both extend the project for the first 11 nonprofits and fund it for some or all of the 11 that weren’t selected. She said the would-be donors, which are corporate and foundations, want to see how many people use the program for a bit before committing.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account

“We’re working on the sustainability piece,” she said. “We feel very good about it.”

The nonprofits selected for the first phase are the Center for the Homeless, Green Bridge Growers, Hope Ministries, La Casa de Amistad, REAL Services, RiverBend Cancer Services, South Bend Heritage Foundation, St. Margaret’s House, St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Joseph County, United Health Services and YWCA North Central Indiana.

The employer-based program, in which employers and the city grant share the costs of Uber or Lyft rides above $5, has provided more than 10,000 rides to more than 500 people. Participating employers include the University of Notre Dame, South Bend Community School Corp. and Oaklawn.

Notre Dame employee Ella Coppock, 51, said she has appreciated the benefit. She works at the Subway inside The Huddle, a food court serving Notre Dame students inside the LaFortune Student Center.

Coppock said she has never had a driver’s license and has no interest in ever obtaining one.

“I think it’s a good thing,” she said of the program. She sometimes rides Transpo to work but it doesn’t run on campus by the time she gets off work in the evening. “A lot of people just don’t have the money to pay for a car.”

Andre Moore is another fan. The 26-year-old life skills paraprofessional at LaSalle Intermediate Center has a license and is saving up to buy a car. He rides Transpo to work and usually takes Uber home, as he did Tuesday after leaving work early for a doctor appointment. He pays only $5 for an Uber ride that would otherwise cost $8 or $9.

“It helps me to save money,” Moore said. “It’s been a big help, it really has. I’m thankful for the program.”