Five Local Recipients Earn Vehicles
from ‘Way to Work’ Program
Poughkeepsie … Reliable transportation is critical to successful employment. A single mother and the sole provider for her child, Nicole, balances of the responsibilities of a full-time job with the obligations being a full-time student. While Nicole studies to become an ultrasound technician, her work assignments often take her to Westchester County.
Without the benefit of a reliable vehicle of her own, Nicole must frequently pay a costly ride-share to get her to and from her job – an additional financial burden she can barely afford as she raises her child alone.
That all changed today.
Nicole was one of five recipients who completed the “Way to Work” employment empowerment program – a partnership between Dutchess County’s Department of Community & Family Services (DCFS) and the Dutchess County Workforce Investment Board (DCWIB) that assists people address their transportation challenges. The program participants earned a gently used vehicle to help them obtain and retain employment; acquire jobs with more hours or higher pay; gain access to higher education; increase their wage potential or take their children to and from school. Today’s recipients included several single mothers, as well as a local young woman who was a foster child.
Dutchess County Executive William F.X. O’Neil, who presented each recipient with the keys to their vehicle, said, “Today we give these deserving recipients more than keys to a car; we give them the opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their families. They have each earned this chance through their commitment to ‘Way to Work’ – attending the various trainings, seminars and workshops, and investing the time and effort needed to complete the program. They have earned this opportunity through their dedication to improving their lives, and we look forward to watching their future successes.”
Established in 2001, the program, formerly known as “Wheels to Work,” 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.
“Way to Work” is dedicated to empowering program participants with transportation solutions. Program recipients are chosen based on their work-related need for transportation, have a temporary need of assistance and other specific program guidelines. In addition, they must display the perseverance and the commitment necessary to take steps towards financial independence. The program offers various components, including connections to public transit options, financial literacy and car care literacy seminars, a financial bootcamp workshop, a credit score workshop, vehicle registration services and vehicle insurance services.
DCFS’s approach to help transition residents to work is a multi-faceted one that includes work skills training, daycare subsidies 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 recipients who earned vehicles today 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 earns 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. Since the program’s inception, 90 percent of vehicle recipients have remained independent from temporary assistance.
DCFS Commissioner Sabrina Jaar Marzouka said, “For more than 20 years, this program has been a success, empowering Dutchess County residents who are looking for a better life and who commit to making it a reality. ‘Way to Work’ is just one way our department offers a hand up to Dutchess County residents in need of assistance, and we celebrate every success story our dedicated staff helps write each day.”
The program has benefited more than 3,500 families since 2001, providing 920 cars, including several vehicles donated to local veterans, along with registration and car insurance deposits. In 2022, 45 residents participated in the program, receiving driving lessons, financial literacy and vehicle maintenance, among other components. Additionally, 315 County residents have gained their New York State learner’s permit; 1,065 people participated in driving experience classes; 518 individuals completed the five-hour, pre-licensing class; 492 passed their state road test and earned a driver’s license; and 768 vehicle repairs were approved on behalf of program participants.
DCWIB Executive Director Louise McLoughlin said, “Reliable transportation plays such an important role in one’s independence – whether getting to and from a job, taking children to school or doctor’s appointments or simply getting to the supermarket – and the ‘Way to Work’ program connects participants with community partners in a circle of support to make that a reality. We are proud to collaborate with Dutchess County on this vital program, which helps those searching for self-sufficiency reach that goal.”