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Free ORCA card program aims to draw workers to struggling areas in Seattle

orca card
Paula Wissel
ORCA card

Restaurants are having a hard time finding workers. Seattle is trying to help out by providing free transit to 2,000 people willing to take the jobs in certain parts of the city.

Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the ORCA Recovery Card Program during an outdoor event Wednesday in Occidental Park.

"The city of Seattle will be distributing 2,000 ORCA cards, distributing at no cost to people who work at the restaurants, grocery stores in Little Saigon, Japantown, Chinatown-International District and Pioneer Square," Durkan explained. "We know we've got to bring workers back. We've got to make it as easy and accessible as possible."

Durkan says the specific business districts were chosen because they’ve been hardest hit economically by the pandemic.

The ORCA cards, valued at $100 a month, are good for unlimited rides and can be used until the end of this year. They will be distributed to workers in the designated areas.   

The program is paid for with funds from a transit levy approved by voters in 2020. 

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.