SC county starts free Uber rides program to help people get to work

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(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

ANDERSON COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA)– Anderson County has signed a contract with Uber to help those struggling with transportation for work.

“It is a ride program for those who are seeking employment. It is an opportunity for those to have a job, to be able to check the box, many times on their application that says they have transportation to and from the employment opportunity,” said Teri Gilstrap, Workforce Development Existing Industry Manager for Anderson County Economic Development.

The new transportation program will be for participants who work or seek manufacturing jobs.

“Manufacturing because we have a huge demand. The county has made just this year, we’ve made incentive agreements with nine companies that have almost 500 open jobs that are in our pipeline just for this year, that does not count all the success we’ve had in the previous year. So, we know that the majority of our manufacturing jobs are coming online,” Gilstrap said.

Gilstrap said transportation has been a barrier for many people.

“We’ve heard that transportation is a huge barrier. So, our goal would be that they would be able to have this program already set up when they’re applying for jobs, and once they’re offered the job, then we would put in place a ride share program so that they can be picked up at their front door and delivered to the front door of their employer,” Gilstrap said.

“For decades I have been around tables talking about what is happening in our community related to employment and there are always barriers that we talk about, and transportation is always at the top of the list. People that want to work, but they just don’t have the means for the transportation to get there and to get home, and this particular program is just going to be amazing to be able to get to work and to be able to keep their jobs,” said Carol Burdette, CEO of United Way of Anderson County.

“We know that we have existing transportation through the means here in the county, but it’s 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m,” Gilstrap said. “And our goal would be that we remove those barriers, so that they would be able to qualify for those jobs and not be screened out of jobs by being able to say, “I have viable transportation, and many times, they’re eliminated before they’re even interviewed.”

Uber now has a $75,000 contract with the county. Gilstrap said the transportation is a part of a six-month pilot program. The rides are offered for qualified individuals at any point in the day, including on weekends.

“Two trips per day, up to six days per week for two weeks, and county council has provided funding for this. And if we look at the possibility of the number of people we can serve, we can serve in this six-month trial, we can serve up to 173 people with those two weeks of door-to-door transportation,” Gilstrap said.

Anyone who is unemployed or underemployed, can take advantage of the program.

“There are two categories of those who qualify. Anybody that is unemployed, but also if you’re underemployed, if you don’t have a full-time job, if you’re not working 30 hours a week. If you’re not making $12.32 an hour and if you don’t have health benefits,” Gilstrap said.

Gilstrap said after two weeks, there are other options for assistance in the works.

“This is just one part of the iceberg of transportation offerings in our county. We’ll be working with employers that want to do offerings for them. We’ve actually had some communications about the budgeting for a potential worker to have a vehicle and pay their insurance and things like that, to help them understand that just because we get them there initially with a ride, that it’s just the first step,” Gilstrap said. “Their long-term goal would have to be self-sufficiency.”

“Right now, in post COVID, we hear so much about how many companies need employees and to help at a desperate time, I think this transportation program that the county is going to do, couldn’t be more timely,” Burdette said.

If you’re looking to utilize the ride program, you can complete a generic application at the following locations:

  • United Way of Anderson County
  • Anderson County Adult Education sites
  • Anderson County DSS
  • Anderson County Mental Health
  • Tri-County Technical College-Anderson/Pendleton Campus
  • Anderson Vocational Rehabilitation
  • SC Works-Anderson/Clemson

Gilstrap said following the six-month trial, Uber’s contract could rollover. Anderson County will evaluate the program’s effectiveness following the pilot program. Gilstrap also said the county is looking at providing the ride program for other industries, including educational and health services.

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