Transportation to Health Care Appointments

Lyft teams up with USC to give low-income seniors rides to the doctor, By Christina Farr, September 22, 2017, CNBC: “Lyft and the University of Southern California are getting $1 million from insurance giant UnitedHealth to help seniors more easily access the transportation they need. As part of the grant, USC’s researchers will study whether taking rides can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation in seniors and improve their health by helping them get to medical appointments on time…”

Auto Insurance Premiums and Low-income Drivers

How Detroit factory workers get charged more than lawyers for auto insurance, By Chad Livengood, August 2, 2017, Crain’s Detroit Business: “It costs more for the undereducated working poor or unemployed who rent homes to buy auto insurance in Michigan than homeowners with white collar careers living and driving in the same city. That’s the charge from a new study by a California insurance researcher who has examined the impact on quotes insurers give Michigan motorists based on their job title, level of education and whether they rent or own a home — factors that have nothing to do with whether they’re safe drivers…”

Driver’s License Suspensions – Minnesota

Unpaid traffic tickets — debt trap for the poor — in MN legislators’ sights, By Bill Salisbury, April 2, 2017, Pioneer Press: “For Carmen Mask, 2009 was a rough year. Mask and her husband divorced, her household income dropped from around $80,000 to $25,000 a year, and she and her three sons moved from their St. Paul house to an apartment. While moving in an old van her ex had left her, a police officer pulled her over and gave her a traffic ticket for driving with a broken tail light. He also told her that her insurance had expired. ‘I was really struggling at that time, and I forgot about the ticket,’ said Mask, 45, an employment counselor who now lives in Minnetonka and works in St. Paul. Soon another cop ticketed her for driving an uninsured vehicle. She couldn’t afford to pay the fine or the insurance, she said, and her driver’s license was suspended. Then a few weeks later, another officer stopped her and handed her a warrant for her arrest…”

Discounted Transit Fares

Advocates for New York’s working poor push for discounted transit fares, By Emma G. Fitzsimmons, November 11, 2016, New York Times: “At a time when New York City can seem unbearably expensive, advocates for the poor are targeting a rising cost that many people struggle to afford: a MetroCard.  And with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority poised to approve its latest fare increase in January, they are pressing Mayor Bill de Blasio to finance a program that would offer half-price subway and bus fares to New Yorkers living in poverty…”

Cost of Living for the Urban Poor

To cut down poverty, cut down the cost of living, By Laura Bliss, August 4, 2016, City Lab: “Proportionally speaking, Americans living in poverty pay more for basic necessities. On energy bills, the poorest 20 percent of Americans spend more than seven times the share of their income than do the wealthiest. Dividing American incomes into three, households in the bottom third spend twice the portion of their incomes on transportation than the top third. High housing costs are hurting everyone—but they’re hurting poor Americans the most…”

Jobs with Driver’s License Requirements

No driver’s license, no job, By Alana Semuels, June 15, 2016, The Atlantic: “Ask conservatives what the poor need to do to get out of poverty, and the answer usually involves something like, ‘Get a job.’ That was the crux of the anti-poverty plan Paul Ryan revealed last week to shrugs, and has been the gist of many anti-poverty efforts over the past two decades.  But for many people, there is one very specific—and often overlooked—reason why that’s not so easy: They don’t have a driver’s license.  Not all jobs require a driver’s license, particularly those that pay very low wages. But having one is a very common requirement for the sorts of job that can actually lift people out of poverty—those in construction, manufacturing, security, and unions jobs including electricians and plumbers, says Mark Kessenich, who runs WRTP Big Step, a Milwaukee center that trains low-income workers to enter jobs in construction and manufacturing that pay a starting wage of $15 and up…”

Subprime Auto Lending

As subprime auto borrowers default, collection suits pile up in local courts, By Walker Moskop, June 6, 2016, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “In August 2008, William Lesinski walked into a Car Credit City in Bridgeton and made a decision that would be far more expensive than he ever imagined.  Wanting to buy his son a car as a high school graduation gift, Lesinski put $1,750 down and drove off the lot in a 2003 Ford Mustang. The loan for the car was $11,367, and it carried 29 percent annual interest over nearly four years. His son would make the payments, but the loan was in Lesinski’s name…”

Court Fines and the Poor

Court costs can be crippling for low-income drivers, report says, Associated Press, May 31, 2016, Roanoke Times: “Kimberly Hopkins was so strapped for cash, she was selling her blood plasma to make ends meet. When a court socked her with a $25 monthly payment for a speeding ticket and court costs, the divorced mother of four simply couldn’t pay. ‘Sometimes I just did not have it at the end of the month,’ the 44-year-old Amherst County resident said.  So she defaulted on the payment plan and her driver’s license was suspended. She continued driving, out of necessity, and got caught, resulting in more fines and costs. Her total court obligation swelled to about $1,500 — an impossible sum for Hopkins, who by then was unemployed and unable to legally drive anywhere to apply for jobs…”

Affordable Housing and Transportation Costs

Section 8 housing not so affordable once transportation costs are counted, study says, By Brandon Formby, February 19, 2016, Dallas Morning News: “More than two-thirds of supposed affordable housing units in the Dallas area aren’t really that low-cost once transportation expenses are figured in, according to a new study co-authored by a University of Texas at Arlington professor.  The federal measure of a housing unit’s affordability solely looks at whether or not the home’s cost is at or below 30 percent of the residents’ gross income. That threshold is a key part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s section 8 housing vouchers…”

Auto Insurance Premiums and Low-income Drivers

Some states take aim at ‘discriminatory’ auto insurance pricing, By Sarah Breitenbach, August 28, 2015, Stateline: “Be a safe driver. Don’t buy a flashy sports car. Pay the insurance premium on time. These are maxims many drivers follow to keep their auto insurance costs in check. But they may not be enough for many low-income drivers, who consumer advocates say are routinely priced out of insurance coverage because they are judged not just by their driving records, but by their credit scores, occupation, education level or other factors. It’s a discriminatory practice by insurance companies that disproportionately increases premium payments for low-income drivers, said J. Robert Hunter, a former Texas insurance commissioner and director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). And some states are trying to stop it…”

Driver’s License Suspensions – Milwaukee, WI

Ticket to nowhere: The hidden cost of driver’s license suspensions, By Vivian Wang, August 15, 2015, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Just after midnight in May 2014, April Williams loaded groceries into her car at Woodman’s Food Market in Menomonee Falls and prepared to drive home. Before she even left the parking lot, a police officer pulled her over and wrote two tickets: one for a broken taillight, one for driving without insurance. She couldn’t pay the tickets — she had filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and was unemployed — but didn’t think much of it. In the weeks ahead, the single mother kept driving, keeping appointments for her children and meeting her case manager at a W-2 agency for help with her job search. In September she was pulled over again, this time for expired plates. She also got a ticket for a violation she never expected: operating while suspended…”

Employment and Transportation

  • Transportation emerges as crucial to escaping poverty, By Mikayla Bouchard, May 7, 2015, New York Times: “James Baker was pedaling to work along a slick, snow-covered road in Frederick County, Md., when a traffic light changed abruptly. He braked and skidded to the ground, unhurt but making a mess of his clothes before a long day of work and school.  He was on his bicycle that snowy morning last December, about an hour northwest of Washington, because the bus service in Frederick was so erratic. Routes were far apart and the buses often late, making a 30-minute bike ride, whatever the weather, a better option.  His commuting problems highlight a central theme for many low-income people trying to build a better life: A lack of reliable and efficient transportation is often a huge barrier…”
  • Car donation helps drive women from poverty to self-sufficiency, By Robert Duffer, May 1, 2015, Chicago Tribune: “The new car feeling is like few others, full of hope, pride, a bit of anxiety and a lot of responsibility. For Caress Pouncy, it means a whole lot more.  ‘This is truly a blessing,’ Pouncy said before being handed the keys to a fully refurbished 2010 Nissan Altima during a reception on Friday, April 24, at Automechanika Chicago, the world’s largest automotive aftermarket trade show. ‘I feel like the kid in ‘Miracle on 34th Street.”  It was less a miracle than a wide-reaching initiative to provide a woman in need with transportation. The Altima is the first ever car donated as part of a community-building program facilitated by the National Auto Body Council (NABC) and propelled by Women With Drive (WWD), a Chicago-based nonprofit, to drive women out of welfare and down the road to self-sufficiency…”

Driver’s License Suspensions

  • Driver’s license suspensions push poor deeper into poverty, report says, By Lee Romney, April 8, 2015, Los Angeles Times: “Traffic-court fines layered with escalating fees and penalties have led to driver’s license suspensions for 4.2 million Californians — or one in six drivers — pushing many low-income people deeper into poverty, a report released Wednesday by a coalition of legal aid groups found. The report calls for, among other things, an end to license suspensions for unpaid tickets and a reduction in fees and penalties that raise a $100 fine to $490 — or $815 if the initial deadline to pay is missed…”
  • Economic disparity is seen in California driver’s license suspensions, By Timothy Williams, April 8, 2015, New York Times: “Drivers in California who are unable to pay traffic fines for minor infractions are frequently having their licenses suspended by traffic courts — a policy that has had a disproportionate impact on poor and working-class people, according to a study released Wednesday. In an Alameda County traffic court case, for example, a $25 ticket given to a motorist who had failed to update the home address on her driver’s license within the state law’s allotted 10 days led a traffic court judge to suspend her license when she was unable to pay the fine…”

Low-Income Workers and Public Transportation

Lacking transport, low-wage workers take a hit, By Katie Johnson, February 12, 2015, Boston Globe: “The $30 cab ride that Chazmaine Carroll had to take to get home from her job as a security guard this week amounted to nearly half her take-home pay for the day. For Medina Ahmed, a fast-food worker who does not have the option of working from home, the MBTA shutdown cost her two days’ wages. Taking a taxi to work would have cost her more than she makes in a day. Isidro Melo, who’s part of the cleaning crew at Boston Medical Center, also was stranded, unable to get to work without the commuter rail or the Red Line. He and his wife live in Lowell because of the lower cost of housing there. These workers illustrate the disproportionate hardship the snow has imposed on the area’s lowest-paid workers. For them, it’s more than a temporary inconvenience. It’s a financial blow that can make all the difference in paying bills, making the rent, and putting food on the table…”

Auto Insurance Premiums in Low-Income Areas

Low-income drivers face higher auto insurance, even when they have clean driving records, By Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, September 30, 2014, Washington Post: “For someone making $21,000 a year, paying $500 a year for auto insurance can be a struggle. Yet low-income families across the country are paying about that much for minimum coverage, even with clean driving records, according to the Consumer Federation of America. Researchers at the advocacy group found that the five largest auto insurers — Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, Progressive and State Farm — do not offer basic policies to safe drivers for less than $500 a year in more than one-third of the nation’s low-income areas…”

Access to Assistance Centers – Minneapolis, MN

Hennepin County moves social services out into community, By Julie Siple, February 13, 2013, Minnesota Public Radio: “A $40 million project in Hennepin County will bring government help closer to the people who need it. For two decades, county residents seeking assistance with food, money or health care have gone to the county’s main financial assistance center in downtown Minneapolis. Between 25,000 and 30,000 people visit the building every month. Hennepin County has a five-year plan to close that center and move services closer to clients by building six regional hubs, the first of which has been up and running for about four months in Brooklyn Center…”

State Voter ID Laws

  • Study finds costs associated with voter IDs, By Krissah Thompson, July 17, 2012, Washington Post: “New laws in 10 states requiring voters to show IDs could present serious challenges to voters without financial resources and transportation, according to a report released Wednesday. The study by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, which opposes the new laws, found several obstacles that could keep voters from being able to cast ballots, including limited access to offices that issue the IDs required under the new measures…”
  • Study: Many could face obstacles in voter ID laws, By Pam Fessler, July 18, 2012, National Public Radio: “A new report by the Brennan Center for Justice finds that more than 10 million potential voters in states that require photo ID at the polls live more than 10 miles from offices that issue such ID. Nearly 500,000 of these voters don’t have access to a car or other vehicle. Many of these people presumably already have a photo ID, but for those who don’t, the new laws pose a special challenge, according to the Brennan center. The center, which advocates for wider citizen participation in government, opposes many of these new voter ID laws. The report, which details the obstacles to getting government-issued photo ID, is the latest volley in the battle over the impact of new state voting laws…”

Public Transit and Employment

  • Improved public transit urged to help speed economic recovery, By Maggie O’Brien, July 11, 2012, Omaha World-Herald: “More than three-fourths of Omaha-area jobs can be reached with public transit, a share that mirrors urban averages nationally, according to a Brookings Institution report. But, echoing a national trend that costs the local bus system potential riders, less than a third of the metro area’s workers can get to those jobs by bus in 90 minutes or less. The report released today by Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program surveyed the country’s 100 largest metro areas. Its wider findings nearly mirrored the situation in Omaha, except slightly fewer Omaha-area workers had to ride longer than 90 minutes. Access to reasonable public transit becomes an issue, the report says, as workers continue to climb out of the national recession. People need to be better connected through public transportation, it argues…”
  • Detroit area lags in jobs served by public transit, By John Gallagher, July 11, 2012, Detroit Free Press: “Metro Detroit ranks below average among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas in the percentage of its jobs served by public transit, with job growth happening in the suburbs but with shrinking options for suburbanites and city dwellers to get to them, a new study released today found. The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program released ‘Where the Jobs Are: Employer Access to Labor by Transit,’ a look at how well public transit systems serve employers…”

Ways to Work Program

Ways to Work loan program a life changer for low income, By John Wisely, April 8, 2012, USA Today: “For Benita Jackson, an 8-year-old blue Saturn Vue was a life changer. The 41-year-old single mother from Detroit bought the vehicle in December through Ways to Work, a non-profit group that helps low-income workers get reduced interest loans on used cars if they agree to continue working and take financial literacy education. ‘I’m able to make it to work, visit my dad and do more things in the community,’ Jackson says. ‘They are here to help you.’ The program, started in 1984 and based in Milwaukee, is undergoing a national expansion. It’s now in 41 communities in 23 states and plans to expand to all 50 states…”

Low-income Car Ownership

Affordable cars are key to getting off public aid, study finds, By Ken Bensinger, March 14, 2012, Los Angeles Times: “Access to affordable cars proved a crucial leg-up for working families, even during the depths of the worst recession in decades, a new study has found. The survey of 445 recipients of loans offered from 2007 to 2010 by the nation’s largest low-income car ownership program, Ways to Work, found that 82% were able to get off welfare and other public aid as a result. That led to an estimated savings to taxpayers of $18.2 million a year, more than double the amount donated to the group. Participants reported increased incomes, wages, educational levels and access to traditional financial services, such as bank accounts…”