Dec. 8, 2021
New fund targets transportation barriers to employment
The Community Foundation of the Ozarks announces a new fund to support workers and job seekers who face transportation barriers that affect their ability to get hired or maintain current jobs.
The “Let’s Get to Work Fund” will open with a $375,000 commitment from the CFO, donors David and Stacey O’Reilly, and the O’Reilly Charity Golf Classic Fund with another $25,000 in anticipated commitments. It was announced at an event held at Penmac Staffing in downtown Springfield today.
The fund will provide support for both employed and unemployed individuals through two avenues:
- Nonprofits that work with clients who identify transportation issues as impeding their ability to get and keep jobs can access funds through the CFO’s grant application process at cfozarks.org/applyforgrants.
- Businesses also will be able to access funds to support workers facing transportation challenges through a partnership with United Way of the Ozarks and the Springfield Business Development Corporation, a nonprofit subsidiary of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
Residential eligibility for this funding will cover the 14-county area of southwest Missouri where the service areas of the CFO and United Way of the Ozarks overlap: Barry, Christian, Dallas, Douglas, Greene, Hickory, Laclede, Lawrence, Polk, Stone, Taney, Texas, Webster and Wright counties.
Funds can be used for needs such as car repairs, new tires, gasoline cards, licensing fees or taxes, transportation services such as bus passes, ride-sharing services, taxis, purchase or repair of bikes/e-bikes, or vehicle purchase down payments.
Individuals cannot apply to the fund for direct assistance. These funds will be granted to nonprofits that include case management as part of their services and to the SBDC to fulfill requests from employers. For more information, visit cfozarks.org/transportation.
The fund was created following a series of panel discussions the CFO held this fall along with information gathered from additional sources. The takeaways included three key themes that were preventing people from looking for jobs or staying in jobs: workforce flexibility, access to child care and transportation barriers.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to lift individuals and families economically, reduce poverty, and thereby enhance the quality of life for so many in our region if we can lower barriers to enter the workforce,” CFO President Brian Fogle said.
Currently, unemployment is at a near-historic low of 2.4 percent in the five-county metro of Greene, Christian, Webster, Polk and Dallas counties with an estimated 4,000-person net reduction in the local workforce locally since July. The Indeed online job search website currently lists about 11,500 current job openings in Greene County.