Nova Scotia

United Way bus pass subsidy pilot program to help low income families

The United Way is working with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the provincial government to create a bus pass subsidy for low-income individuals.

The United Way is working to secure $120K in funding to launch to pilot project

CBRM Transit is going through some growing pains after nearly getting the axe four years ago. (George Mortimer/CBC)

The United Way of Cape Breton is taking steps to help reduce child poverty in the region with a new bus pass subsidy for low-income individuals with young children.

The agency is working with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the provincial government to create the pass for eligible people on the island.

A report issued last fall by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives revealed Cape Breton has the highest poverty rate in Nova Scotia, including 32 per cent of children living in poverty.

The United Way is hoping to reduce that number by five per cent over the next five years.

Helping families

"To reduce child poverty we need to help the families," executive director Lynn McCarron said.

McCarron says increased access to transportation means caregivers can get to work or training programs, which helps increase household income and creates a better life for children.

Lynn McCarron is the executive director of the United Way of Cape Breton. (George Mortimer/CBC)

The United Way plans to spend $40,000 on the project, which should help about 80 transit users.

McCarron says the organization needs another $40,000 from the province and the CBRM has been asked to contribute $40,000 through in-kind services such as making bus passes and installing scanners in busses for the passes.

The costs include hiring a manager to run the program.

Half-price pass

McCarron said people will be invited to apply for the pass at the United Way once all of the funding is in place. Eligible applicants must fall within the low income range and have a child under the age of 18.

"If you meet the criteria ... then we would give a half price pass for a six month period," she said.

Wanda Earhart, a support worker with the Every Woman's Centre in Sydney, says she works with families every day that are living below the poverty line and thinks the bus pass subsidy is a great idea.

'Already stretched budgets'

Earhart says whether clients are coming to the centre for a program or going to work — in most cases a minimum wage job — transportation costs are a big consideration.

"For a bus pass to come out of their already stretched budgets would be a negative even before you get to work," she said.

McCarron says she's expecting to get a positive decision on funding, which will hopefully allow the project to get started by early fall.

"We're halfway through a fiscal year, so if they're able to find the money I think people will do the best they can do make sure it happens," she said.