MEDINA, Ohio — While employers across the nation are struggling to find workers because the unemployment rate is so low, Medina County organizations are teaming up to help their residents get to jobs they otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach.
Getting to work
“Medina being a very rural place, public transportation doesn’t get to all those hard-to-reach spots so a lot of times, people don't have cars and can’t get to work,” said United Way of Summit and Medina Counties’ Director of Community Impact Paul Khacherian.
That’s why United Way of Summit and Medina Counties, Medina County Economic Development Corporation, and a handful of other groups are launching a pilot program that will help shuttle people to work while also offering financial literacy coaching sessions.
The vanpool program will help the region’s already-strong manufacturing industry, which News 5 Cleveland has documented, is consistently looking for more talent.
“We have such a low unemployment rate,” said Medina County Economic Development Corporation Economic Developer and Workforce Coordinator Kathy Breitenbucher. “We’re at 2.7 percent right now in Medina County. Full employment, I was always taught, is 5% so our companies are desperate for people.”
Getting to work is just part of the program. Participants will also take financial literacy coaching sessions that will help them better use the paychecks they’ll be taking home.
“Connecting them with a financial coach in that moment can really help them get a great first start and then also start thinking strategically about making that paycheck work for them,” said United Way of Summit and Medina Counties’ Associate Vice President of Financial Stability Angela Lowery.
With inflation going up and interest rates expected to rise soon, extra help managing money can come in handy.
“In Medina County, I think the poverty rate is 5.5%,” said Khacherian. “But when you take into consideration the people who are living in the county that are living paycheck to paycheck, that goes up to about 26% of the population.”
Caching a ride
Ace Taxi already supplements Medina County’s public transit system, mostly with out-of-county rides. It’ll be part of the pilot program too, eventually shuttling workers to jobs they might not be able to reach.
“Our entire business has been giving folks opportunities to make a living, put food on the table, and this sort of cements that concept even further,” said Ace Taxi President Devo Bavishi.
He says driving a taxi often helps all kinds of people get a steady paycheck and this project will be no different, even if those workers aren’t his employees. Ace Taxi General Manager Tim Lewis says he knows how powerful that feeling can be.
“When you’re employed, I know personally, self-esteem is raised, your opportunities for your family are better,” said Lewis.
How to apply
Applications will be accepted through February 22, 2022, with the hope that the first buses will start running by the end of February.
The pilot program has funding for 18 months. If it is successful, Breitenbucher says she hopes another entity can take it over to run it permanently. You can find information about how to apply here.
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