The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(a) Elderly persons and persons with disabilities have the same rights as other persons to utilize mass transportation facilities and services.

(b) As administered by the state, funding under Section 5310 of Title 49 of the United States Code is dedicated to providing special transportation for elderly persons and persons with disabilities in all areas of the state, including urban, small urban, and rural areas.

(c) The goal of this federal program is to improve mobility for elderly persons and persons with disabilities for whom mass transportation services are unavailable, insufficient, or inappropriate.

(d) Additionally, the federal program should be coordinated with other area paratransit service providers and the consolidated transportation service agency designated pursuant to Section 15975, where applicable.

(e) Within the state, those eligible to receive grants shall include all of the following:

(1) Nonprofit corporations and associations which provide transportation services for elderly persons and persons with disabilities.

(2) Public agencies approved to coordinate services for elderly persons and persons with disabilities, including a consolidated transportation service agency designated pursuant to Section 15975.

(3) Public agencies that certify that no nonprofit corporations or associations are readily available in an area to provide the service.

(Added by Stats. 1996, Ch. 669, Sec. 2. Effective January 1, 1997.)