A federal grant might mean as many as a couple dozen used cars for low-income families in Arlington so that they can get and keep jobs. The cars will come from Vehicles for Change through Northern Virginia Family Services, a nonprofit company that works to get financially-stressed families throughout the region back on their feet.
The $999,044 grant will mean the groups can provide about 280 more cars to needy families in the region. This is the second grant the groups have won together. The 2010 grant provided about 168 cars to families in the region, a statement says.
Of the 90 cars given to northern Virginia families over the past year, about six, or just under 10 percent, ended up in Arlington, said Sharon LeGrande, Director of Workforce Development and Self-Sufficiency at Northern Virginia Family Service.
The groups are getting cars to families at the rate of six or seven per month now.
"[This grant] is an extension of the program," LeGrande said. She did not know exactly how many cars will go to Arlington in the coming months, but an estimate of 10 percent of the total was accurate.
"We do have a waitlist for cars for the entire region," she said.
Because of the the ease of access to Metro and buses, “Arlington has been what we consider...a low-user county,” LeGrande said. She added that the Arlington county government has been a big help in the program since the groups started distributing cars in 1999.
“They’ve always supported the vehicles program. From the very beginning they were involved,” LeGrande said.
“The cars are all donated from the general public,” said Jen Harrington the marketing director for Vehicles for Change. Each car has a value of $5,000 to $7,000, she said, adding they often have more than 100,000 miles.
Vehicles for Change and Northern Virginia Family Services pay to make the car ready, and they expect it to last at least two years or 24,000 miles, she said.
The car is not given, however.
Families receive a $750 low-interest loan from Vehicles for Change, which they use to purchase the car. They get the loan regardless of credit history.
“It gives many of these people the chance to build credit,” Harrington said.
According to Vehicles for Change, Northern Virginia Family Service finds the needy families. In order to receive one of the vehicles, the family must be at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and be employed for at least 30 hours a week. They cannot already own a car, must have at least one child, and must participate in the Rideshare program.
The poverty level for a family of three is about $19,000, a family of four, $23,000.
Most of the recipients are single mothers with two or three children, Harrington said.
The grant, from the Federal Tranisit Administration’s "Job Access and Reverse Commute" and "New Freedom" programs, will be spent over two years starting in February 2013.
Since 1999, Vehicles for Change has awarded more than 3,800 cars to low-income families in the region. Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) is a private, nonprofit community service organization dedicated to helping individuals and families find new paths to self-reliance and brighter futures, the statement said.