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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | Countywide

Survey to Deal With Transportation Needs

March 09, 2000|CATHERINE BLAKE

County officials will begin their second wave of research next week to determine the transportation needs of Ventura County's welfare recipients.

Officials at CalWorks, the agency that implements the state's welfare-to-work program, determined that transportation is a major barrier to finding and keeping gainful employment in Ventura County.

The research will help find solutions to such transportation problems.

The initial research, in which about 650 of the county's 6,000 welfare recipients were surveyed, shows that nearly half of the respondents did not own cars nor have driver's licenses.

About two-thirds of those surveyed last year did not work. Of those who were employed, nearly half said they shared a ride to work, walked or took the bus.

Julian MacDonald, transportation coordinator for CalWorks, said it is unknown how many unemployed welfare recipients would begin working sooner if they had transportation to a job.

He said federal and state law allows a welfare recipient to refuse a job offer if it would take more than an hour to travel to work.

Based on current county and city bus schedules, many welfare recipients who live in Oxnard would have to commute longer than an hour to get to jobs in Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley, where there are a large number of entry-level positions available, he said.

The next stage of research is meant to qualify the findings of the first portion by interviewing more people with a refined survey, MacDonald said.

Over a three-month period beginning Monday, about 2,000 welfare recipients will be asked their work schedules, whether they have driver's licenses, own cars, and why, when and whether they take the bus.

They will also be questioned about transporting their children to child care.

About 90% of the county's welfare recipients are women with children, MacDonald said.

The survey results will be used to help CalWorks caseworkers determine which programs, from vanpools to car repair services to helping drivers deal with suspended licenses, need to be expanded.

MacDonald predicted that a major target would be to get bus services to interconnect.

"When we solve the welfare-to-work transportation problems, we will have largely solved the transportation problems for all of Ventura County," he said.

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