Some people drive to work. Others may bike, take a bus, carpool, or even walk.
However, for many people in this community, none of those is an option.
Mandie Bottema has scoliosis and cannot drive. Like many others across the city who have developmental disabilities, she may lose her job because of budget cuts in public transportation.
Previously, Mandie had been using a taxi service organized by the Resource Exchange, a nonprofit that works with children and adults with developmental disabilities to build independence. Through its Medicaid waiver program, the state would pay up to $50 a day for Yellow Cab rides. That was enough to cover Mandie's rides to and from work at Target, off of Powers Boulevard.
But according to David Ervin, executive director of the Resource Exchange, as of July 1 the waiver program went from being "cost-based" to "dependent upon the number of miles of a trip." Anne Bottema says her daughter falls into the lowest mileage category, meaning she is only allotted $5 each way.
"The fare itself costs $13 to $16 one-way," Anne says. "Mandie only works one or two days a week at Target. She only works four hours. She makes eight-something an hour."
Representatives of the Colorado Division for Developmental Disabilities did not return a Tuesday morning call for comment on the policy change. But Ervin says that of the 70 people in El Paso, Park and Teller counties who used the taxi service before July 1, only 12 have been able to continue.
Before the taxi service, Mandie had used Metro Mobility, a service of the Colorado Springs public transit system.
"For Metro Mobility," Ervin says, "so long as you live within three-quarters of a mile within a fixed [bus] route, Metro Mobility should come to your door, and you can walk out your door into the Metro Mobility vehicle and off you go."
But when city budget cuts led to the elimination of many bus routes, the Target store where Mandie works was cut off from the bus system.
"For the folks that we serve," Ervin says, "public transportation is literally the difference between being homebound and having a job — and this community values people working."
For now, Anne says, Mandie's father William is able to able to take her to work. "He's still looking for a job," she says. "When he does go to work, she will have no way to go to Target without having to pay for the ride herself."
So Mandie, her mother says, will probably have to quit.
"It's not just Mandie," adds Anne. "A lot of people may have to quit their job because there's no other option. That's not fair to them, because [working] makes them feel useful."
For now, the Resource Exchange is left to see what it can do on its own.
"You can't look to family or the individuals themselves to make up the difference," says Ervin. "We can go out and do fundraising and try to generate philanthropic interest."
However, Ervin says community donations are not a long-term solution.
"The folks that I support don't want to be reliant on other people," he says. "So this is really antithetical to everything we believe in as a community: Pull yourself up by your bootstraps."
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