PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Jennifer Munoz had a job interview recently, but couldn’t keep the appointment because she didn’t have the money to put gas in her car. Instead, she bought a gallon of milk and food for her two young children.
Many Rhode Islanders, faced with the rising cost of gasoline, cannot afford to drive to work or keep important appointments and have turned to the Diocese of Providence for help. Public transit is one viable option, using the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority’s extensive network that links many communities throughout the state.
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence and Alfred J. Moscola, general manager of the transit authority, known as RIPTA, announced the launch of the Catholic Charity Fund RIPTIKS program June 11 on the steps of the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul.
The new initiative is sponsored by the Providence Diocese to help needy Rhode Island residents who are struggling to cope with the constantly rising cost of gasoline.
Thanks to a $17,500 grant from the diocesan Catholic Charity Fund, the diocese has purchased 1,000 RIPTIK booklets. The booklets, worth $17.50, have 10 tickets. They will be distributed free of charge through the diocesan Office of Community Services and Advocacy and its satellite offices to anyone who can demonstrate a need for assistance.
“We are all well aware that the high cost of gasoline has created a very substantial financial burden for many Rhode Islanders, especially those of limited means,” Bishop Tobin said. The rising cost of food, increasing unemployment and an expected decrease in social services are placing additional burdens on those already struggling or unable to make ends meet, he explained.
“All of these factors present real and imminent challenges for many individuals and families in our state,” the bishop said. “In times of need, many people turn to the Catholic Church seeking whatever assistance we can offer them.”
Bishop Tobin added that the program to provide the transit tickets was established when he became aware of the needs in the community and after discussion with diocesan staff members, some of whom reported hearing pleas from people seeking assistance to help pay for gasoline.
The bishop noted that while the new program will not solve the burgeoning problem it will provide some relief for those in need of assistance.
“It’s a privilege to be part of this new program funded through the Catholic Charity Fund Appeal,” Mr. Moscola said, adding that the rising cost of fuel has impacted the transit agency as well. The agency has paid up to $4.31 a gallon for diesel fuel in recent weeks, he said, explaining that the transit authority’s buses get 3 to 5 miles a gallon, depending on a vehicle’s age.
Ms. Munoz said she will use her ticket booklet to travel to interviews and supermarkets.
“I just can’t stretch the gas,” she said. “The price of gasoline is very high, and it’s getting very hard for us to live a normal life when all of our income is going for gas and you live paycheck to paycheck.”