A new program is helping some Milwaukeeans who struggle to get financing get a car loan - to help them get to work.
Many Milwaukee bus riders still complain the public transit system doesn’t meet their needs, but a car remains out of reach for many residents.
The Milwaukee-based organization Ways to Work has been trying to address that issue. It offers financial counseling and access to affordable loans to help people buy their own vehicles.
Since July, the YWCA Southeast Wisconsin, on the border of the Brewers Hill and Halyard Park neighborhoods, has served as a provider of the program for Milwaukee County.
Jennifer de Montmollin is the Chief Program Officer at the YWCA. She says many of the people who apply for Ways to Work don't have the necessary credit history or a high enough credit score to qualify for traditional loans. The loans that would be available to them come with enormous, almost insurmountable interest rates.
Participants must meet a few criteria, including: 1) they must have a job they've held for six months, 2) they must have a child or dependent, and 3) they must make less than certain income limits.
The participants must also go through financial education classes, to help them see where their money goes and how much of a loan they might be able to afford. De Montmollin says these classes are critical, but also rewarding.
"It is such an awesome, powerful, palpable experience to watch somebody go from, 'I don’t know where my money is going,' to 'Oh my goodness, I can’t believe where my money is going,'" she says. "The program is powerful that way."
After going through the classes, applicants write a personal letter to a loan committee made of volunteers from different financial institutions about why they need a car. Awarded loans have an 8 percent interest rate and case workers help advise applicants on what car to buy as well as paying back the loan over time.
Oak Creek resident Miranda Vogelman is a young mom who is working and going to college. She says the car helps her to not have to rely on her own mother. Plus, she feels confident driving her daughter in a car she knows won't break down.
Torey Johnson of Milwaukee got his car through a loan through Ways to Work. He says he feels proud driving it to and from work.
"It’s like a thing that makes you feel good, so when you pull up in the car lot, you go to work, everybody be waving to you," he says. "Even your kids say, 'I’m proud of you, Dad,' because they never thought you’d do it, so that’s what makes me feel good and it’s uplifting."