Local News

Tough to make ends meet in remote areas

There's a man in Garden City who can't afford the $1 it takes to ride the City Link bus. Instead of paying the full amount, he gives the bus driver 99 cents and promises to pay the extra penny on his next ride.

Date: 1/23/2009

Posted by Finney County Transit on 4/15/2009

Author:    Monica Springer  mspringer@gctelegram.com

It's people like him that make Bonnie Burgardt, Finney County Transit director, realize how important public transportation is for some people.

"All the human services in the world are useless if you can't get to them," Burgardt said.

There are a unique set of challenges facing people stricken with poverty in rural areas, and the problems differ from poverty in urban areas.

In rural areas, sometime more than in urban areas, transportation may be a lifeline for some people who need to get to jobs, social services and grocery stores.

Burgardt said the transportation center sees the problem of people not having the $1 per ride frequently.

"Most people don't know what it's like to have 99 cents to your name," she said. "We let them ride. I'm sure they give the extra penny on the next ride."

Burgardt said the poverty in rural Kansas is "profound."

There are people looking to go to medical appointments, grocery stores, to pay their bills, have appointments to receive dialysis and to visit sick relatives to care for them.

And if they have no transportation of their own, and live in a county with no fixed public transportation, they rely on friends to give them rides.

Burgardt said people outside of Finney County call the transit center and ask about transportation to Garden City for medical appointments, to social services or to grocery shop.

Currently, there's nothing she or the transit center can do to help them.

And transportation is not the only problem facing Kansans stricken with poverty.

A report released in 2004 lists Kansas counties from the lowest to highest ranking of one- and two-adult households with children younger than 18 that fall below the self-sufficiency guidelines.

According to the Kansas Household Self-Sufficiency Standard, Wichita County has between 47.93 and 52.6 percent of households that cannot be self-sufficient.

Hamilton County has between 44.84 and 49.32 percent of households with children that cannot be self sufficient.

In contrast, Scott County has 22.78 to 25.21 percent of households with children that are below the self sufficiency guidelines.

Wichita County has a food bank, a ministerial alliance, and a thrift shop run by volunteers to help the people in the community who are in need of food or other types of assistance.

In Wichita County, employers are having trouble recruiting and retaining employees. To help solve the problem, Wichita County Economic Development Corp. is offering incentives for people to live and work in the county through the HOPE program, or the Homestead Opportunities for Promising Employees Program.

The program works with businesses in Wichita County to offer incentives to employees. Once an employer gives an employee an inventive, the county matches the funds up to $1,000 after the employee has been there a year.

Sharla Krenzel, director of Wichita County Economic Development Corp., said it's another way to help local businesses help local people in the community.

Krenzel said it's hard for businesses to retain employees in the county.

"Western Kansas is kind of different. For people that come from higher population areas, that's an adjustment that's sometimes difficult for them," Krenzel said.

The county also offers assistance to business owners through different programs. There's a revolving loan fund that has helped 18 businesses start up since 2001.

It helps with the poverty problem because the businesses create jobs and a tax base for the community, Krenzel said.

The fund provides up to 80 percent of a project for a potential business owner at a low-interest rate.

The county also works with Kearny, Scott and Sherman counties in a pilot project called Enterprise Facilitation. The program provides businesses assistance to start up businesses in the four counties.

Krenzel said people who start businesses often aren't sure of the financial aspect of the business. The program has an enterprise facilitator, who helps potential business owners develop a business plan and put together financial projections.

The two programs work together to assist in job creation and business development in the county, Krenzel said, which then helps people find employment and receive health insurance.

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