The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) and the State Workforce Development Board (SWDB) have awarded $600,000 in grants to implement or expand existing public transportation to give people more direct access to work and job training sites.
The agency said reliable transportation is a major barrier for poor jobseekers and even current workers.
“We are thrilled to provide these grants, because providing transportation is key to ensuring workers can make it to their jobs, and it helps businesses retain and grow their workforce,” SCDEW Executive Director Cheryl Stanton said in a release. “Removing this barrier to employment will ensure those who seek employment and job training can access it.”
Transportation grants are an entirely new focus, according to agency spokesman Robert Bouyea.
Six local workforce development areas received $100,000 each to implement new innovative programs and extend or change existing routes. The six local areas receiving the grants are:
- Lowcounty Workforce Development Area (Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton and Jasper counties) – This workforce area will implement a new route in Walterboro. Riders will be referred by partner entities and will ride free of charge. A color-coded ticket system will be used to identify those riders. Employers will also provide bus tickets at $1.00 per ticket/trip. New routes will be refined during the 45-day planning period and will be based upon the passenger needs identified by partner entities and employers. Lowcountry Workforce Development Area expects to serve 130 individuals over the 18-month grant period.
- Pee Dee Workforce Development Area (Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Marion and Marlboro counties) – Pee Dee will implement the Workforce Connecter project, a new weekday commuter bus service originating in Marion County and making stops in the town of Latta and in Dillon County. The bus will provide transportation to major employers in Dillon, including Harbor Freight Tools, Wix Filters and Perdue Farms. Additional business partners may be added during the grant period. Pee Dee expects to serve 50 commuters per day over the 18-month grant period.
- Worklink Workforce Development Area (Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties) – Worklink will pilot a new transit line and extend an existing line in Anderson County to address the transportation barriers associated with seeking job training or employment. Worklink anticipates that the Belton-Honea Path line and the Masters Boulevard extension will serve approximately 35,000 riders over the 18-month grant period.
- Catawba Workforce Development Area (Chester, Lancaster and York counties) – This area will implement the Way2Work program, which is designed to increase employment and training opportunities through the expansion of transportation into rural Chester County. On average, 20 people are expected to use the expanded transportation service each day over the 18-month grant period.
- Upstate Workforce Development Area (Cherokee, Spartanburg and Union counties) – The Upstate area will implement the Ride to Success project, which will provide transportation for current and new employees to business/employer partner locations during 2nd and 3rd shifts. Upstate expects to serve approximately 100 employees over the 18-month grant period.
- Waccamaw Workforce Development Area (Georgetown, Horry and Williamsburg counties) – This area will implement express routes from the towns of Bucksport and Loris to Conway. These routes will expand access to employment and training opportunities in Horry County for approximately 3,000 Bucksport and Loris residents.