Maybach is unpaid, a volunteer among a cadre organized by Faith in Action in Red Wing, a nonprofit that relies on retirees to ferry residents to essential services.
The riders, mostly seniors, are people who don’t have immediate access to transportation, especially in rural areas where public transit options are either limited or nonexistent.
There are several such programs serving rural counties in Minnesota, but, as with other services across the country, their existence has become precarious because the number of volunteer drivers has steadily declined, according to transportation advocates. Volunteers either get to a point where, because of age, they can no longer drive, or the costs associated with their volunteerism are no longer sustainable. For decades, Congress has refused to increase the rate at which the drivers’ expenses can be reimbursed.
Experts say that with public transit in rural areas already insufficient and the long distances that residents in rural communities must travel to access health care, a decimated volunteer driver network would leave seniors with even fewer transportation options and could interrupt their health management. Already, social service organizations that rely on volunteers have begun to restrict their service options and deny ride requests when drivers aren’t available.
Volunteers, like Maybach, are eligible for a reimbursement of 14 cents per mile, which generally doesn’t come close to covering the cost of gas and wear and tear on a vehicle. And while the Internal Revenue Service increased the business rate from 58.5 cents per mile to 62.5 cents per mile in June, it did not raise the charitable rate because it is under Congress’ purview and must be set by statute. The charitable rate was last changed in 1997.
Author(s): Christina Saint Louis
Publication Date: 24 Oct 2022
Publication Site: Kaiser Health News