King, Cornyn Introduce Bill to Assist Volunteers Delivering Meal Programs to Seniors
U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) today introduced the Delivering Elderly Lunches and Increasing Volunteer Engagement and Reimbursements (DELIVER) Act of 2017, legislation that would promote volunteerism within meal delivery programs and help provide meals to more seniors across America. Specifically, the legislation would increase the existing charitable mileage tax deduction rate of 14 cents per mile -- which has remained unchanged for more than two decades -- to match the standard business rate of 58 cents per mile. The bill is also supported by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
"For rural Maine seniors, home-delivered meals are a lifeline that allow them to remain in their homes and communities," said Senator King. "These services are vital resources for many Maine people, and it is critical that our tax code reflects the importance of this work. Through this legislation, we can decrease the financial burden felt by volunteers so they can continue to play a major part in the lives of Maine seniors across the state."
"For decades, charitable organizations and faith-based groups have provided meals to seniors in communities across Texas," said Senator Cornyn. "By removing barriers for folks willing to offer their time and resources to help others, more Texans in need can receive food, and these important charities can grow their network of volunteers."
"Millions of volunteers across the country deliver meals to seniors every day, allowing them to continue living independently in their own homes and improving their quality of life," said Senator Klobuchar, "These volunteers devote their time and energy to their communities and we should recognize their service by helping bring down the financial costs of those food deliveries."
"Our Meals on Wheels program is overwhelmingly supported by volunteer delivery drivers, without whom, we would not be able to sustain this program," said Gerard Queally, President & CEO of Spectrum Generations. "Many of our volunteers donate their mileage back/forgo the mileage reimbursement in order to allow us to serve more meals. For those who request mileage reimbursement, we do so at $0.42/mile and any increase to the allowable mileage tax deduction for volunteers will help us in our ongoing efforts to recruit and retain a strong volunteer force."
Volunteers who deliver healthy meals to elderly, disabled, frail, or at-risk individuals through the programs like Meals on Wheels provide a crucial service that allows our nation's most vulnerable citizens to maintain the choice to continue living independently in the comfort and safety of their own home. In addition to a higher quality of life and peace of mind for loved ones that the program instills, helping vulnerable individuals remain at home has shown beneficial federal budgetary implications too. For example, according to Meals on Wheels America, it costs less to provide a senior Meals on Wheels for an entire year than it costs to spend one day in the hospital or ten days in a nursing home. Additionally, providing homebound individuals with Meals on Wheels may also help reduce mandatory Medicaid and Medicare expenses each year.
Despite those benefits, however, the rising costs associated with delivering meals are often absorbed by the volunteers using their personal vehicles and result in a reduction of the number of days they deliver meals or even a suspension of their volunteer services altogether.
To help alleviate the financial pressure shouldered by volunteers, the federal government currently provides a charitable mileage tax deduction rate of 14 cents per mile -- but the rate has remain unchanged for more than two decades and has failed to keep pace with changing costs. At a time when both the need and demand for nutritious home-delivered meals to seniors and other vulnerable individuals are substantial, it is critical to retain current volunteers -- and to recruit more -- to deliver the meals and social contact that is needed by our nation's homebound individuals.
The DELIVER Act would increase the tax deduction for the charitable use of a passenger automobile to deliver meals to homebound individuals who are elderly, disabled, frail, or at-risk from 14 cents per mile to the standard business rate, which is currently 58 cents per mile. By doing so, the legislation would bring equity and fairness to the millions of Americans who volunteer their time and resources to deliver meals and would help ensure that meal delivery programs remain strong and continue to help those in need.
According to Meals on Wheels America, 89,038 seniors in Maine are living alone while 57,954 are threatened by hunger and 98,981 live in or near poverty. Across the state, Meals on Wheels programs serve 800,000 meals to more than 18,000 seniors each year through home-delivery and congregate nutrition services.