Diane Catrabone, who holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology,  is a firm believer that the transportation assistance program she oversees at St. Benedict Education Center can relieve a great deal of stress and provide encouragement in the lives of the program’s participants.

Diane, a case manager who provides financial literacy information at SBEC, also says it can be a big help in teaching them more responsibility about how to spend and budget their money.

SBEC’s transportation assistance program, which began last December and is funded by a state innovation grant, focuses on transportation barriers that keep many participants from obtaining and keeping a job. “We decided the most practical use and measurable area of concern is to help people get to and from work so they are able to keep their jobs,” Diane said.

The program has grown dramatically since it started and provides monthly assistance to eligible participants. Through the program, SBEC can offer assistance in a variety of ways related to transportation issues that participants face.  Among those are gasoline cards, bus passes, gift cards for Uber services, and all types of vehicle repairs. The program can even help with car insurance, car payments and driver’s license renewal.

Regardless of the type of assistance Diane believes the program provides a service for participants. “It’s where they are at in their lives at that moment,” she said. “And in that moment, we may make a difference between job termination or retention.”  

“We have one participant who drives 23 miles one way,” she said. “That’s just over 900 miles a month.”  

Diane explained there are some requirements for eligibility in the program. “It is a competitive program,” she said. To be eligible, people must be actively involved in the E.A.R.N. program at SBEC, work a minimum of 80 hours a month and show a need for assistance.

As part of the transportation assistance program, each participant initially receives a folder with instructions on how to better budget their money. “We give them the tools to stay on budget and even teach them to save money,” Diane said. “The goal of the program is for them to become self-sufficient with a learned sense of budgeting and bill prioritizing. We help them come up with a goal that is realistic and a plan to meet that goal.”

In a survey taken after being involved in the program for seven months, several participants expressed gratitude for the help they received. “I was able to save money and use some toward rent and other bills,” one wrote. Another said, “It helped me save money for bills and to be able to get into a new house.” And another wrote, “I was able to get to and from work and also to important appointments.”

Diane said those comments show how important the SBEC program is for the participants. “Alleviating some of the financial strain of transportation allows them to focus their efforts on how to reach their goals.”