SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Low-income residents of certain Bay Area neighborhoods can get help to replace their old cars with clean air vehicles thanks to a new grant program administered by the region’s air district.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s “Clean Vehicles for All” program offers up to $9,500 for “low-income members of communities disproportionably affected by air pollution,” according to the air district.

Residents who qualify can apply for grants ranging from $5,000 to $9,500 to purchase electric, hybrid electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Grants of between $2,500 and $4,500 are also available for the purchase of Clipper cards, used to pay fares on 22 transit systems around the Bay Area, including BART, Alameda-Contra Costa Transit and San Francisco Municipal Railway.

The $4.25 million program is only open to people who own cars that were built in 1996 or before and who live in one of 76 ZIP codes around the Bay Area.

Also, only people earning 400 percent of the federal poverty level or below can participate, according to the air district. That means a single person can’t earn more than $49,960 a year to be eligible and a family of four can’t bring in more than $103,000.

“The goal of the program is to take dirtier cars off the road and provide everyone with options to replace them with clean air vehicles,” air district spokeswoman Simrun Dhoot said.

To apply, people will have to provide proof of income, proof of residency and vehicle registration information, among other things. They will also have to fill out a federal W-9 tax information form, which means any money they receive from the air district will be taxable.

The “Clean Vehicles for All” grants will be counted as income for the purposes of calculating people’s eligibility for other types of assistance programs, such as food assistance, Social Security benefits or subsidized health care.

“We are aware of those issues and will work with any future applicant on making sure they understand what this means for them,” Dhoot said. “We want everyone to know exactly what they are getting into with this program.”

While the grants will be taxable, people can also apply for federal tax credits when buying some types of electric vehicles, and other rebates and incentives might be available from the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, Dhoot said.

The air district grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis until the funds are depleted, although Dhoot said it’s possible the program could be extended if additional money is found, possibly from the Volkswagen settlement funds.

Volkswagen’s multi-billion-dollar settlement came in the wake of the company’s sale of roughly 590,000 vehicles that were fitted with devices used to cheat on air emissions tests, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Initial funding for the program comes from California Climate Investments, the state’s cap-and-trade program, which regulates the release of greenhouse gases.

People interested in the air district program can visit its website at www.baaqmd.gov/cleancarsforall.

 

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