Do You Need Free Transportation?

Access to transportation can be very challenging for individuals and families that are struggling financially. Oftentimes, lack of transportation means that you can’t get to work, and this means it becomes even more difficult to make ends meet. The good news is that there may be transportation assistance available to support you. 

Typically it is easiest to get transportation assistance if it supports you getting to or from a job, job interview, or is transportation that is otherwise necessary for your employment. There are also usually programs to help transport people to medical appointments. But transportation assistance isn’t only to help you get to work or the doctor.

The type of transportation you might be able to get will likely depend on the current government benefits you receive and what you need transportation for specifically. In this post we will talk about the programs that exist to help people pay for transportation costs like bus fare, gasoline, and car repairs. 

First we’ll cover how and when veterans can get assistance. Then we’ll discuss transportation assistance available to elderly and disabled individuals. After that, we’ll talk about gas voucher programs for low income individuals, and finally we’ll cover the type of transit help we’ve already mentioned -- help with getting to and from work. Let’s dive in!

Veterans

If you’re a veteran, there is a Veterans Transportation Service that helps veterans get to VA health care facilities and other authorized non-VA health care appointments. This program also provides veterans with other types of transportation assistance by partnering with local community service agencies. We’ve provided a link to information about this program, and the local community service agencies that are a part of this program below. If you’re a veteran, this is a great way to make sure you are able to access health care and maintain your well-being.

Assistance for the Elderly and Disabled

Two other categories of people that are typically eligible for government funded transportation service are the elderly and disabled individuals. If you are a senior you will likely qualify for free or low cost transportation from your county. You can find out if your county offers this benefit by connecting with the agency or nonprofit in your area that focuses on aging.

If you are disabled or receive Medicaid, you may be eligible for both emergency and non-emergency transportation assistance. While the rules vary by state, generally when a person signs up for Medicaid they are given instructions on when they can schedule a ride, and how it is done in their region. If you’re wondering about your eligibility, it is recommended that you contact your Medicaid office. Here is a link to a helpful guide to Medicaid transportation support.

Gas Vouchers

Let’s switch gears and talk about gas vouchers. Free gas sounds great, doesn’t it? The best way to find out if there are organizations in your area offering gas vouchers is by calling 2-1-1, the United Way. These types of vouchers will likely require you to fall below a certain income threshold and may be slightly more limited in distribution as compared with government programs. 

Employment Related Transportation Assistance

One of the most common forms of transportation support that an individual may receive from the government or a community service organization is assistance getting to and from employment related activities. Many state and local social service departments provide assistance with employment related assistance. If you receive welfare assistance, it is likely that you are eligible to receive transportation assistance. Some welfare programs provide transportation assistance in the form of bus fare to all program participants. Others may give you transportation assistance that is specifically tied to a job you are applying for or have gotten while receiving welfare. Or, perhaps your car brokedown. Some states and counties will offer one-time cash assistance to help individuals fix a car issue that will prevent them from losing a job.  Whether you receive government benefits or not, if you experience a transit related issue that will cause you to lose a job, it is worth reaching out to your local government social service agency to see if they can offer assistance.

For those that qualify for transportation assistance because they receive welfare payments, it is important to know that some states will continue to provide transportation assistance, even if you are no longer eligible for welfare due to increased income, if transportation assistance will help you retain your job. 

If you don’t qualify for transportation assistance through the government, you may qualify for transportation assistance through a local nonprofit. The best way to find out if a nonprofit in your area offers transportation assistance, especially assistance related to employment, is by calling the United Way by dialing 2-1-1. 

Private Transportation Companies

One program that is also worth mentioning is a partnership between Lyft, Goodwill, and the United Way called “Lyft Job Access Program.” This program allows residents in certain cities to apply for credits from Lyft to help them get to job-related activities. We’ve provided a link to apply for this program in the description below.

Other Region-Specific Opportunities

Finally, while we’ve covered a few different government programs and private programs, it’s important to search in your own area for programs that offer gas cards, gas vouchers, or general transportation help to individuals that are lower income. These programs and resources can vary dramatically by region, and often have varying levels of support they are able to offer. It is worth spending time to see if there are region-specific programs offered near you. These types of programs are often offered by nonprofit organizations such as the Salvation Army, Goodwill, local homeless support programs, and workforce development focused nonprofits.

One Final Tip!

One final thing that is worth mentioning is that if you are receiving government assistance that is means-tested -- meaning that your income is monitored and must remain below a certain level to continue receiving benefits -- you may be able to subtract work-related transportation costs from your countable income. This might give you the flexibility to earn more in a given period.

As you can see, there are many options available to individuals who are struggling to pay for transportation. If you have any other tips or recommendations, let us know!