Car giveaway program could help regional residents escape poverty
PENNOCK -- Well-worn, repairable cars that are no longer needed by some are being repaired and given to others as a vehicle to get out of poverty. In the month and a half since the new four-county car ownership program was launched, six vehicles ...
PENNOCK -- Well-worn, repairable cars that are no longer needed by some are being repaired and given to others as a vehicle to get out of poverty.
In the month and a half since the new four-county car ownership program was launched, six vehicles have been donated and are being "reconditioned" to make sure they're mechanically safe. Qualified individuals will be selected to receive the vehicles by the end of the month.
While the overall effect on poverty may be slight, the new program will make a huge difference to the six low-income families that receive a vehicle, said Rick Erickson, transportation coordinator for Heartland Community Action Agency.
Erickson gave a report on the program, called, "Helping people get there," to the Kandiyohi County Commissioners on Tuesday during their meeting in Pennock.
The new car ownership program is a cooperative effort by Heartland Community Action Agency, the human service agencies in Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker and Renville counties and the Workforce/Minnesota Jobs and Training Centers.
In 1998, Erickson said Heartland had a successful car ownership program that helped low-income people purchase vehicles with a low-interest loan. When the agency tried to revive that program last year, it was discovered that widespread credit problems and bankruptcies made it too difficult for clients to purchase vehicles.
It's the result of a credit crisis problem that's nationwide for low-income people, said Erickson.
The irony, he said, is that without a vehicle to get to a job, it's extremely difficult for poor people to get out of poverty.
Erickson cited a 2008 documentary by the Annie E. Casey Foundation called "Pursuit of the Dream: Cars and Jobs in America," that claims "Not having a car is not just a consequence of poverty; it is a barrier to escaping it."
The cars will be given to high-priority individuals who currently receive public assistance and are at risk of losing their job if they don't have transportation.
The new program is modeled after one that's been successfully operating in Anoka County for several years. The first year that program started it had eight vehicles donated, now it has 80 vehicles a year.
People in this region are "just as generous" as they are in Anoka County, said Erickson.
Because a vehicle is being given to a low-income individual, donors are eligible to receive a tax benefit by claiming the full fair market value of the vehicle
Erickson said he's thrilled with the response of local donors who have given their vehicles to the program. He's equally thrilled that Ridgewater College and Midas Central Lakes Cooperative are reconditioning the donated vehicles at discounted prices.
He told the commissioners that Midas and the Ridgewater Auto Tech Department are providing labor and parts at greatly reduced rates that are "unheard of," which has helped get the program going in the right direction.
A church group has even offered to wash the vehicles before they are given away.
More local partners are being sought.
Once an individual receives a vehicle, they will be required to purchase insurance and may not sell the vehicle for one year without written permission from Heartland. If they participate in an illegal activity, the vehicle will be taken away.
For more information about how to donate a vehicle, contact Heartland at: 1-800-992-1710 or 320-235-0850 or go to: www.heartlandcaa.org