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Job Express program to be canceled in the fall

The “Job Express” program under Sun Metro will no longer be in service beginning in September.

The program provides services to those who need transportation to or from work, looking for employment, who need transportation to take their children to day care in order to go to work, and to receive training or school classes in order to find employment.

The program’s webpage includes a message stating: “Attention: Federal funding used to provide transportation under the Job Express program has come to an end. As a result, Job Express services will no longer be available as of September 1, 2017.”

The website states the homeless or those living in a shelter are eligible for the program, including those on the TANF program or registered with the Upper Rio Grande Workforce Solutions Choices Program. It adds the cost of each trip is free but the cost and service is subject to change because it is being subsidized by a federal grant that “may cease to exist.”

“We’re trying to get back on their feet. I am doing the best I can,” said Dianna Baker, who is currently living at the Safe Haven Shelter in Central El Paso. She tells ABC-7 she’s relied on Job Express in the past to commute to her job in East El Paso.The free shuttle service, which provides rides to and from work, has been around more than ten years.

Baker is currently looking for a job but now that the program is ending, she says she has no idea what she’s going to do.

“I don’t know what everybody’s going to do,” Baker said.

Baker says the other option of using Sun Metro is unrealistic for her because of the fee and the time it takes to get from one side of town to the other.

“Spend three or four hours depending on the bus system which takes away time from home,” Baker said.

Julio Perez, with Sun Metro, tells ABC-7 the funding in no longer available.

“It will be a big impact, when you’re talking about being on a low-income basis or a financial need and all of a sudden transportation is not available then you’re gong to have a difficult time,” Perez said.

Perez tells ABC-7 the city received a federal grant up until 2012. Cities across the country were affected when funding ran out. For the past five years, he says the city used leftover funding to help run it.

“It wasn’t until this year that unfortunately we have just come to an end and we’re having to end the program,” Perez said.

The service provides 1,400 trips a month, servicing about 150-200 passengers. Perez says the city has looked at every other resource to help but at this point can no longer provide the transportation.

“As soon as a grant or another funding source becomes available, be assured we’re going to be looking at that and see if we can continue with the program,” Perez said.

Perez says they outsource their service, so the drivers will not be out of jobs and will do work for the ADA. There is another program run by the county for drivers looking to carpool, but in terms of free transportation, Perez says there isn’t anything available. He says they have notified passengers and will continue to do so.

The program will end on September 1st, 2017.

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