PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — An innovative new program is helping essential employees who rely on the bus to get to or from work, but are no longer able to reliably use PSTA buses because of agency’s capacity limits and reduced service during the pandemic.Brad Miller, the CEO of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, said some riders are actually unable to board. Only 15 riders are allowed on board at one time due to COVID-19 safety procedures.”Especially in the rush hour, you’re having to leave some people behind,” Miller said.Stephanie Glover is an essential worker with National Molding in Largo. When the pandemic hit, her bus route changed from the typical weekday schedule to the weekend schedule. That left her constantly scrambling to get to work on time.”That caused me to be 20 or 30 minutes late to work every day,” Glover said.Glover went to her boss about the issue. She was soon one of about 50 people who are now a part of the Essential Workers Program. It started a few months ago. Through the program, PSTA helps get these employees rides to or from work curb-to-curb on either Uber, United Taxi or Care Ride.APPLY for the PSTA Essential Workers ProgramELIGIBILITY – You may be eligible if:You are an essential employee (with employer verification)You ride or used to ride the bus to get to workYou are now late getting to work, or you are no longer able to get to work because of reduced bus servicePSTA staff will contact you within 1 to 2 business days and discuss different options for you to get to and from work, and will determine your eligibility.There are also opportunities for riders with disabilities who depend entirely on public transit to get from place-to-place to apply for ride-sharing services through PSTA.Miller said those programs are growing in the pandemic as well.”We’ve really ramped up our partnerships with Uber and Lyft on that,” Miller said. “So more and more, we’re seeing record numbers of folks with disabilities take advantage of our programs. We’re really happy about that.”If you need information about special services for riders with disabilities during reduced-capacity services during the pandemic or PSTA’s bus schedules, detours or special services, call the agency’s InfoLine at 727-540-1900.