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Onondaga County partners with Lyft to give some people rides to work


Onondaga County is teaming up with the ride-hailing company Lyft to make a dent in one of the most pervasive problems keeping people in poverty in central New York: a lack of transportation to jobs.

At any given time, there are 20 openings at Brophy Services, a commercial building service contractor out of Syracuse. President Eileen Brophy said the first question on an application is often the road block.

"When the first question we ask them is, 'do you have reliable transportation?' and they say 'no,' then I can’t employ them," Brophy said.

Brophy is one of three companies in a pilot program that pairs Onondaga County and Lyft to provide rides to workers who have applied for temporary assistance.

Onondaga County Social Services Commissioner Sarah Merrick said it starts in the Jobs Plus! program, which helps individuals in the welfare system find and keep jobs. If no buses to jobs are available, Merrick said the county will create a Lyft account for an eligible employee and take it from there.

"We are dealing with the funding on the back end, and kind of loading a client's lift account for a month, so they have the opportunity to get to work and back," she said

The county is starting small with three companies that employ about 50 temporary assistance clients.  After an individual is out of the system, then she sayid the private sector can pick up the slack.

"Once we show this works, then employers may think of setting up accounts with Lyft to help people bridge off temporary assistance, who are working poor, and still need help with transportation," she said.

The program also covers transportation to childcare if necessary. Lyft said this is the first program of its kind in New York.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.