Maryland officials are considering renewing a $332,000 contract with a nonprofit that donates cars to needy residents, even though the nonprofit delivered on just 16 out of the 91 cars that the original contract was expected to provide.
The state spent $302,575 on last year's contract with Vehicles for Change, a Baltimore nonprofit that helps low-income people afford donated and refurbished vehicles.
The contract is meant to help poor people travel to their jobs if public transportation is not an option or would take longer than three hours each way.
"It was anticipated that [the] services would provide up to 91 vehicles per year," the state Department of Human Resources wrote in its request for contract renewal to the Board of Public Works, which is scheduled to vote Wednesday on renewing the contract. "During the base term of the contract, 16 vehicles have been provided to [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] customers due to a slow start-up for the program."
Another yearlong contract would allow more customers to participate, the department said.
Maryland's program was underused because the state didn't advertise the program sufficiently, said Jen Harrington, marketing director at Vehicles for Change.
"Implementing the contract with [the Department of Human Resources] has been a learning experience," she said.
The 13-year-old nonprofit has started contacting local human resources departments to get the word out about the program, she said.
Vehicles for Change provided 465 cars in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, including the 16 under the Maryland contract, Harrington said. She said she's confident the nonprofit would deliver an estimated 91 cars over the next year if the state renewed.
To qualify, residents must be current or recent welfare recipients who have a job or bona fide job offer. Recipients are responsible for paying some cost for the cars, up to $1,000.
"Having reliable transportation is critical to helping newly hired workers maintain a job, gain financial independence and support their families," said Brian Schleter, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Human Resources.
The state last year centralized local transportation assistance programs, resulting in the Vehicles for Change contract.
Update from the original article: Of the $302,575 the state allocated to the program, $41,461.70 was given to Vehicles for Change for the 16 families. The funds were used to cover the cost of vehicle repairs, as well as each vehicle's tax, title and warranty.