A MetroCard Helps Pave the Way to a Job

You get discouraged when you think, I don't have enough money to get to work.

Leatrice moved to New York City from South Carolina in 2010, settling in Queens with her daughter. The 24-year-old single mom’s busy schedule includes shuttling between two jobs and her daughter’s school and other activities.

Leatrice often takes four or five trips a day by subway or bus—at significant expense. Things were especially tight last year, as she struggled to scrape together fare to and from a part-time job and an internship at Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow (OBT) at their Y Roads Center in Jamaica, Queens. Y Roads is a partnership between OBT and the YMCA of Greater New York.. “There were times I just didn’t have money for the weekly MetroCard, so I had to purchase the fares day by day,” says Leatrice. “But no matter what, I was determined to complete my internship and keep my job.”

Leatrice was happy to learn that OBT is also part of CSS's Income Support Services Partnership Initiative—a fact that led her to much-needed help.  With funding from the New York Times Neediest Cases, CSS partners with community programs like OBT to provide grants to pay for transportation, tools, test fees and other items that allow people to take vital steps toward economic stability.

At CSS, Leatrice met with Elliott Smith, who provided her with a month’s Metro Card worth $112. “That was the biggest help ever,” says Leatrice. “Now I could go to my internship, pick my daughter up from the bus, and head out to my weekend job without the stress of thinking all day about how I was going to get home.”

Leatrice’s determination paid off.  Her internship turned into a permanent position at OBT, which helps disadvantaged youth and adults through job training, academic reinforcement, improved life skills, job placement, and support services. “I love it,” she says of her work with the organization.

Now better able to afford bus and subway fare, transportation nonetheless remains expensive for Leatrice, as it does for millions of New Yorkers. “You get used to the high cost of living. But you want the quality of life too. You want to be able to take your daughter into the city.”

Asked for her thoughts on a proposed MTA fare hike, and the idea of reduced fares for people who meet certain income requirements, Leatrice said: “Just like when you apply for Medicaid or Food Stamps, you should be able to purchase a discounted Metro Card if you make below a certain amount per month.” In a recent CSS survey, 83% of low-income New Yorkers voiced support for a half-price subway and bus fare to help low-wage workers.

Add your voice! Tell the MTA it’s time to give the working poor a break.

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