The “no car, no job” dilemma is solvable

by | Apr 7, 2023

The following is an excerpt from an article by Frank W. Lewis for Signal Cleveland.

Get2Work Now is a collaboration between the Cleveland Clergy Coalition, the American Association of Clergy and Employers and Manufacturing Works, which promotes and supports manufacturing. It got started in 2019, when the coalition began trying to help people find jobs in manufacturing. Pastor Aaron Phillips, executive director of the coalition, said they quickly realized that transportation was an issue for many.

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The Fund for Our Economic Future also set out to find solutions to a decades-old obstacle keeping people in poverty: access to good-paying jobs, the kinds most often found in suburban office parks and industrial zones. These places require long bus rides, if they’re accessible by public transit at all. So the Fund named its initiative the Paradox Prize, a reference to the dilemma that traps many: can’t get a job without a car, can’t afford a car without a job.

An advisory committee reviewed 150 proposals for pilot programs from across Northeast Ohio and chose eight to fund, including three in Cuyahoga County.

“Operating across urban, suburban and rural communities in seven counties, the pilots benefited more than 1,300 residents, enabling individuals to connect to jobs that were previously inaccessible, and worked with more than 400 employers,” the Fund reported at the conclusion of the initiative in 2022.

Of users who reported their racial or ethnic identity, two-thirds identified as people of color. This was especially encouraging, because, as the report noted, “Northeast Ohio’s Black residents are disproportionately affected” by a lack of transportation options.

Four of the eight projects continue to operate, at least in some capacity, including Get2Work Now.

“In short,” the report stated, “the transportation paradox is solvable.”

But the project also confirmed that business leaders will not take the lead in finding new solutions. In a survey, just 3% of employers said that they were likely to consider transportation services and/or commuter benefits in the next five years.

So who will?

“That’s actually one of the motivations for the Fund doing this work over the last couple of years,” says Bethia Burke, president of the Fund for Our Economic Future. “Our objective, as an organization, is to problem-solve in that space that isn’t somebody else’s job already.”

But no one organization can tackle the problem alone. The Fund remains involved, Burke said, but various agencies and appointed officials in Cuyahoga County are carrying on the work that the Paradox Prize championed.

Read the full article at Signal Cleveland here. Photo Credit: Manufacturing Works.