March 22, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – 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.
“In a rural state like Maine, with an aging population, the demand for home-delivered meals for seniors continues to grow. That’s why it’s critical that the federal government update the tax code to reflect the challenges that volunteers face today in delivering those meals,” Senator King said. “If we can lessen the financial burden that volunteers have to shoulder, then we can ensure they will want to continue delivering meals into the future and help seniors throughout the state receive the food they need.”
“For decades, charitable organizations and faith-based groups have helped provide an essential service to some of our more vulnerable in communities across Texas and the country. By making it easier for individuals to offer their time and vehicles, more food can be delivered to folks in need, and new volunteers can be inspired to lend their services,” Senator Cornyn said. “I’m proud to partner with Senator King on this important effort.”
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 rate tax reduction of 14 cents per mile – but the rate has remain unchanged for 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 53.5 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.
“The costs associated with delivering meals often force volunteers to reduce the miles they drive or the number of days they deliver, putting many frail, disabled and isolated seniors at risk of losing the critical lifeline that Meals on Wheels offers,” said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America. “I commend Senators King (I-ME) and Cornyn (R-TX) for working together to introduce the DELIVER Act – Delivering Elderly Lunches and Increasing Volunteer Engagement and Reimbursements – on this important day, the 45th anniversary of senior nutrition programs being added to the Older Americans Act. We are grateful that both Senators recognize the invaluable role volunteers play in keeping seniors healthier and more independent at home, avoiding more costly healthcare alternatives, and I look forward to working with them to push for passage this year.”
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.
“Spectrum Generations proudly recognizes the significant contribution volunteers provide senior nutrition programs by delivering meals with their personal vehicles, and currently reimburses our volunteer MOW drivers at $0.40/mile,” said Gerard Queally, President & CEO of Spectrum Generations. “We are pleased to see, and support, the introduction of this initiative by Senators King and Cornyn. The announcement today, on the 45th anniversary of the Older Americans Act Nutrition Programs, is a timely reminder of the hard work and integral importance done by everyone who seeks to serve the nutritional needs of homebound and older adults throughout the nation.”