St. John Dial-A-Ride Transportation and its supportive services program will shut down by the end of the week because it didn’t get the promised funding from the local government, Celia Kalousek, director of the St. John Community Foundation, said Sunday.
“I’ve been telling them this for several weeks,” she said.
The Community Foundation runs the Dial-A-Ride program.
Kalousek said while the money was allocated by the Legislature to be managed by the Human Services Department. However, she said the funding is processed through the Property and Procurement Department. She said the total due the Dial-A-Ride program is $54,000.
“I know the monies are there. I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus but we are under the bus,” she said.
The program has been running on reserves, and those have run out, she said.
According to Kalousek, the Dial-A-Ride program provides transportation for seniors age 60 and over as well as disabled and disadvantaged people, and has a yearly budget of $284,000. It also provides transportation for visitors who are seniors or disabled.
The Dial-A-Ride bus takes people to medical appointments, to pick up prescriptions and shopping, including trips to St. Thomas so they can buy items at bulk stores at cheaper prices than on St. John. It takes them to senior centers for lunch and socialization, and to social events.
It operates five days a week and by appointment on weekends and after hours.
“It breaks my heart to have to deny them the services that they need,” Kalousek said.
Dial-A-Ride provides service regardless of a clients’ ability to pay. It does ask for a small fee-for-service within the ability of the client to pay. However, no one is turned down for service if they are unable to pay, according to a news release from the Community Foundation.
While there are about 300 people on the list of those eligible for services, Kalousek said that typically, the bus carries 15 to 20 people a day.
Kalousek said Dial-A-Ride faced a similar problem last year around this time and it took until August to get the funds released. She said that at that time, someone donated money to pay for the gas to keep the bus running.
“We are looking for donations again so we can operate,” she said.
The program also accepts donations to offset costs of vehicle upgrades, safety checks, maintenance, repairs, and other operating costs.
According to a Community Foundation news release, the likely stopping of the Dial-A-Ride service comes just two weeks before Older Americans month, a time set aside for the nation to recognize the valuable contributions of seniors have made.
Kalousek made a plea to senators at an April 9 town meeting on St. John to see if they can do anything to help speed up the processing of the funds that they allotted.
Several years ago, in the wake of a large funding cut, the seniors went to the Legislature to let them know their health and well-being was being severely compromised without the Dial-A-Ride program. Although the process was hard on everyone, the senators voted to reverse the cut and reinstate most of the funds needed to keep the service running, according tp the news release.
The St. John Community Foundation was formed in 1989 to help St. John recover from the massive destruction caused by Hurricane Hugo.
Donations can be made to Dial-A-Ride and other Community Foundation programs through The St. John Angel Network. Checks can be made out the St. John Community Foundation and mailed to P.O. Box 1020 St. John, VI 00831 or dropped by the third floor Marketplace Office Suites II 203.
Kalousek can be reached at email@example.com or 1-340-693-9410.