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Program would give some a lift to work

June 21, 2006|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Unemployed Washington County residents who have no transportation and receive temporary cash assistance soon might have an opportunity to work.

The County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a $246,000 grant-funded pilot program in which County Commuter, the county's bus system, would pick up those receiving the temporary assistance and transport them to jobs in the Hunters Green Business Center along Hopewell Road.

Employers in the business park have said there are more than 500 job openings among the companies there, according to information provided by the county.

Many of the positions could be filled by residents receiving temporary cash assistance, but the clients have no way to get to the business park, David Engle, director of the Washington County Department of Social Services, said by phone Tuesday .

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Engle said the program also would be open to noncustodial parents - those parents who don't have custody of their children and owe child support.

"It should be a great resource," Engle said.

Of the 323 county families receiving temporary cash assistance, approximately 150 would qualify for the pilot program, Engle said.

There are between 500 and 1,000 noncustodial parents who owe child support who would be eligible, Engle said.

County Transportation Director Kevin Cerrone said 18 employers in the business center are interested in the program.

The county still must work out routes for the program, but they likely would originate in downtown Hagerstown. It is possible the bus would make several stops along the way to the business center to pick up more clients, Cerrone said.

It was unclear from Tuesday's meeting how long the $246,000 would sustain the program.

When it runs out, the county has the option of terminating it. Or, if the pilot program shows a need for such transportation, the county could apply for grants to keep it running, said Stephanie Stone, executive director of the Washington County Community Partnership for Children and Families.

The state awarded Community Partnership the grants for the program. It would be funded out of $698,995 the agency has to spend on one-time program expenses. The commissioners approved three other programs that would be funded from the grant money. The state must approve the spending before the programs can begin.

The business center is north of Interstate 70 along Hopewell Road and Md. 63. There are more than 20 businesses in the center that employ more than 2,000 people, according to information provided by the county.

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