Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins announced today that she secured $1,000,000 in the Fiscal Year 2022 Transportation Appropriations bill to help the Independent Transportation Network of America (ITNAmerica) increase senior transportation options. As the Ranking Member and lead Republican on the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Collins co-authored this bill.
The omnibus funding package passed the House and the Senate and now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“As the oldest state in America by median age, there is a serious need in Maine to provide seniors access to the transportation options necessary for them to maintain their independence, particularly in our rural areas,” said Senator Collins. “ITNAmerica is the nation’s leading model for community-based, sustainable senior transportation, and they have so far provided more than a million rides to older and visually impaired individuals. This funding will allow them to further their work to increase the army of volunteers and drivers that make these services possible, helping even more Mainers safely visit their doctors, families, and friends.”
“Across Maine, and across the nation, nonprofit volunteer services provide an irreplaceable transportation safety net for older adults and people with special needs, especially in rural and small communities. Volunteer drivers are the most precious and most needed resource for these nonprofit services,” said Katherine Freund, the founder of ITNAmerica. “This appropriation, secured by Senator Collins, will launch America’s Volunteer Driver Center and bring together representatives from all three sectors of the economy—business, philanthropy and government—to launch a public information campaign to change the way Americans think about and support community-based volunteer transportation. If people will volunteer to lie down and give their blood away for the Red Cross, they will volunteer to drive someone’s mother to the supermarket. We need to ask them.”
With this funding, America’s Volunteer Driver Center will study the effectiveness of a nationwide public awareness campaign on recruiting and training volunteer drivers that provide assistance to older Americans living in rural or suburban communities that lack the density for traditional mass transportation.
ITN, which was founded in greater Portland more than two decades ago, has grown into a nationwide network that gives hundreds of rides every day to seniors in a dozen states coast-to-coast. The network taps into community-level social capital, with affiliates pairing older and visually impaired riders with drivers and volunteers operating private vehicles. ITN rides are available for any purpose, from medical appointments to recreational trips, and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ITNAmerica is now demonstrating ITNCountry, transportation for rural and small communities, in six states, including Maine, where it is launching soon in Kennebunk (the Kennebunk Konnector), Hancock County, and Millinocket (Mobilize Katahdin).