By: Eli Anderson
Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.
Nine north country organizations have received about $1.6 million from the Federal Transit Administration to continue providing transportation services to seniors and people with disabilities.
The funds are part of $39.4 million announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday to be distributed among public and nonprofit organizations across the state.
"One of government's most important responsibilities is to ensure vital services reach the most vulnerable citizens," Gov. Cuomo said in a news release. "This funding will assist community organizations in providing transportation services to the elderly and people with disabilities and improve their access to food, healthcare and other essential services."
The state Department of Transportation began administering the federal Enhancing Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities program in 1974. Since then, more than $210 million has been secured to help purchase about 4,500 accessible vehicles.
In the north country, four Watertown organizations received funding, as did two in Plattsburgh and one each in Canton, Ogdensburg and Malone.
The Volunteer Transportation Center Inc., 203 N. Hamilton St., received $199,488 to help purchase four wheelchair vans that its volunteers can use to transport residents of Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.
Executive Director Samuel M. Purington said this is the first year that the 5310 program has accepted bids from volunteer organizations. "We've never been able to get the operating assistance for people with disabilities before," he said. "Volunteer transportation is all being done by volunteers in their own personal vehicles."
With the help of this funding, he said, the organization will now have four vehicles that volunteers can use when they need them specifically for a client in a wheelchair. "It's going to help the people who maybe fall through the cracks," Mr. Purington said.
The Jefferson Rehabilitation Center also received funding, in the amount of $40,007.
Executive Director Howard W. Ganter said the money will help the organization afford a new wheelchair bus.
"We've been involved with the 5310 program for years," he said. "It's helped us maintain our fleet over the years."
Mr. Ganter said the organization's vehicles are used to transport its clients and also to help other organizations such as the Disabled Persons Action Organization and the Cerebral Palsy Association of the North Country.
"It benefits the community too," he said.
Other recipients in Jefferson County are VNA Homecare Options and Samaritan Keep Nursing Home.
For a full list of recipients, visit http://wdt.me/5310-funding.