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Community Renewal Good Stories - New Haven

Good News Garage Gives Pre-Owned Cars to Hard-Working EZ Commuters
New Haven, Connecticut, EZ

Barbara Fair, a resident of the New Haven EZ, needed her own car to get to work. She thought she could handle the gas, maintenance, and insurance costs on her budget, but knew she could not afford the car payments. That is where Empower New Haven and the Good News Garage made a life-changing difference. Fair got a pre-owned car for free. She loves the car and her employer loves the fact that it is no longer a hassle for Fair to get to work. The first recipient of a car from the Good News Garage, Fair drove her car off the lot in January 2003.

"We want to provide relief for EZ residents who have transportation difficulties as a barrier to employment," said Althea Marshall, Empower New Haven president and CEO. "This will help them maintain employment and reduce absenteeism and tardiness."

The Good News Garage opened in New Haven on January 17, 2003. Operated by Lutheran Social Services of New England, its activities are largely funded through a $300,000 grant received in 2002 for operations from the New Haven EZ. By early September 2004, 92 EZ residents had received roadworthy used cars through the program.

The New Haven Good News Garage is housed in St. Luke's Church under the auspices of the St. Luke's Development Corporation. Other New Haven partners in the project include the departments of correction, labor, motor vehicles, and social services, as well as the Northeast Utilities Foundation. Other Good News Garage programs are located in Burlington, Vermont; Sturbridge, Massachusetts; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Hartford, Connecticut.

Shortly after New Haven received its EZ designation in 1999, Empower New Haven's neighborhood committees began to consider obstacles to EZ residents in getting transportation to work. After researching a number of programs, Empower New Haven, which administers the EZ, contacted the Good News Garage program, impressed by its demonstrated past success.

Car owners donate used vehicles to Good News Garage and receive a tax credit based on the blue book value of the vehicle. The garage then evaluates whether the vehicle can be made operational for less than $1,000. Good News Garage also subcontracts with mechanics and test-drives the cars.

The cars must pass safety and emissions inspections and successful applicants must have good driving records, be employed, and be earning enough to maintain a car. In April 2004, at the 30th Annual Community Development Block Grant Recognition Day, Empower New Haven received a peer excellence award on behalf of the city of New Haven and the Good News Garage. The Connecticut Community Development Association and the city of Hartford cosponsored this event. The award recognized the EZ's outstanding service in the field of community development.

The EZ hopes to be able to fund an extension of the program.

For more information on the programs of the New Haven EZ, please contact Althea Marshall of the EZ at (203) 776-2777.