The U.S. government spends billions of dollars each year providing a host of benefits to veterans and military personnel, from health care to job training.
But all the benefits in the world can be rendered meaningless by the lack one of thing:
Tampa Bay transportation officials hope to launch by the end of the year a "one-call, one-click" system providing area residents with information on transportation resources. Residents will be able to access a Transportation Information Center by computer, phone or on mobile devices.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Monday $29 million in grants to communities in 33 states to help make it easier for service members, veterans and families to get to jobs, medical care and school. Among those grants was one for $50,000 earmarked for Tampa Bay.
That grant is in addition to about $1.1 million allocated last year in a program that has been a joint effort between the DOT and Department of Veterans Affairs.
The program will be operated by the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority in cooperation with the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Commission.
The program is geared toward veterans and military personnel and their families, but the center will be available to any resident of a seven-county area, which will include Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Citrus, Hernando, Manatee and Sarasota counties.
"Military families and veterans must be able to take full advantage of the transportation resources in their communities," Peter Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration in Washington, D.C., which is managing the grants, said in a statement.
"Every service member who returns home or a spouse who relocates to a new community deserves the best-possible chance to earn a reliable paycheck and that means having access to reliable transportation choices," he said.
The $50,000 will be used to market the center once it is up and running. Marketing will include the printing of guidebooks for transportation services in the seven-county area for distribution at VA facilities and other locations; and advertising in a variety of formats, including print and broadcast, said DOT spokesman Brian Farber.
The funds also will be used to monitor the program's effectiveness, he said.
William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3432.