ODOT helping fund transit rides to COVID-19 vaccination clinics

The ‘Rides for Community Immunity’ program launched in all 88 counties.

COVID-19 vaccine clinic at University of Toledo’s ROTC building on Feb. 12, 2021. (Jaden Jefferson)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As COVID-19 vaccination efforts ramp up across Ohio, the Ohio Department of Transportation is providing additional funding to assist local transit agencies and health departments in ensuring all eligible Ohioans can make their way to vaccination sites.

“We want to make sure all Ohioans who want the vaccine have equal ability to get the vaccine,” said Gov. Mike DeWine. “Equity includes having access to transportation services.”

The ‘Rides for Community Immunity’ program will provide $7 million distributed across all 88 counties to help get Ohio’s most vulnerable populations transportation to vaccine locations. For the 70 counties that have public transit programs, ODOT will be awarding the funds directly to public transit agencies. In the 18 counties that do not have transit service the funding will be given to the county health department and can used for purchased transportation services.

“Transportation should not be a hurdle to any eligible Ohioan who wants to be vaccinated. We’re doing everything we can to make sure that access is available to all Ohioans, not just those with a vehicle or that live near a vaccination site,” said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks.

All public transit recipients will work with their local county health department and EMA to identify the best way to use these funds. Officials could leverage existing investments, such as offering vouchers for transit passes, or use these funds in conjunction with other transportation resources to help cover any additional cost that may be associated with keeping our communities healthy.

“Governor DeWine’s decision to provide additional funding targeted to support transportation to vaccination sites will help public transit agencies address the challenges of identifying and reaching those communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” said Claudia Amrhein, General Manager and CEO of Portage Area RTA and President of the Ohio Public Transportation Association. “As public transit providers continue serving our communities through this pandemic, we are well positioned to coordinate with public health departments and county EMAs to facilitate access to vaccination sites.”

Funding will be distributed based on the most recent U.S. Census data and will not require any type of local match. Ohioans who have transportation needs are encouraged to reach out to either their local public transit agency or health department for details specific to their area.