By DJ Shuman
MusGo Rider has been an essential part of our community ever since it opened in 2014, and the need for the service they provide isn’t going away any time soon. In that time, ridership has increased at least 12 per-cent every year, with an increase of over 50 per-cent in the 2017/2018 year.
With the aid of a plethora of grants, MusGo was able to bring down fares significantly so they can provide transit to medical appointments and other necessary trips at a fraction of the price. But with the end of the largest of these grants, MusGo finds itself with tough news for its loyal clients.
In June 2018, MusGo received a grant from municipal affairs through the Poverty Reduction Grant which significantly cut down on costs for medical visits. The subsidy allowed MusGo to drop the cost of a round-trip from Sheet Harbour to the QEII from $160 to $40.
In a conversation with Executive Director Jessie Greenough, she explained how important this subsidy for medical trips had been. “It really helped people get around to their medical trips without costing them a fortune, especially in the Valley/Sheet Harbour area. If it was a medical appointment, we were discounting by 75 per-cent, grocery store trips were discounted by 50 per-cent, and we did free food bank trips.”
MusGo was given a portion of the grant in June of last year (around three months after the fiscal year started). They were allocated $9000 out of the provincial total, but that wasn’t enough. “We wrote a letter from this organization to Community Services telling them how well this project was received in all communities and how we were able to help people,” Greenough said. “We asked them to continue it and actually give us a little more money; we used up the money in nine months.”
When the new fiscal year started, they had heard nothing about the continuation of their funding. “We had assumed it had to go through the Treasury Board to reinstate it,” Greenough said. “But the longer this went on, the less hope we had that the funding would ever come.”
And now at the start of August, 2019, Greenough said the nonprofit has had to make some harder choices to help their clients. The organization has had to fall back on smaller pockets of funding, most of which come with stipulations liminting who can benefit, like only for seniors or for persons with a disability, and only once per client.
“For a senior, there’s a big difference between $40 and $160,” Greenough said. “When your income’s $1200 a month, and your rent is $600 of that, and groceries… it adds up quickly. We are still waiting on word about the funding. Many clients, especially in the Sheet Harbour area are cancelling medical appointments or rescheduling at a later date in the hopes that we’ll get our funding.”