June 25, 2024

Protect volunteer driver programs in Minnesota

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By C.A. Ray, Editor

In rural Minnesota, volunteer drivers do a valuable service for seniors, the handicapped and other non-drivers, giving them access to health care and other essential community services and products, as well as deliver meals on wheels to shut-ins.

In 2018 1,959 volunteer drivers in Minnesota provided more than 168,000 rides to 77,474 people, covering more than 9.5 million miles.

Yet organizations that provide rides, transport for meals, or donated organs, are facing increased barriers to recruiting and retaining volunteers because of two major issues:

1. Some auto insurance carriers are increasing their insurances rates on volunteer drivers, treating them like for-hire taxicab or Uber/Lyft drivers.

2. Volunteers must pay federal and state income tax on millage reimbursement received over the IRS-set rate of 14 cents per mile when total reimbursement exceeds $600 per year.

Legislation introduced in the Minnesota Legislature seeks to address these barriers:  

House File 2377 and Senate File 2324 clearly define a volunteer driver as not “for-hire;” The bills protect volunteer drivers from increased insurance rates; Create a state income tax subtraction for volunteer drivers to reduce their tax liability in Minnesota; and, cap the liability of nonprofit organizations that offer volunteer driver services at $1.5 million.

The Volunteer Driver Coalition is working to get these bills passed this legislative session. The Coalition consists of these nonprofit and public organizations in Minnesota: The Minnesota Public Transit Association; Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging; Living at Home Network; and, the Minnesota Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

Representative Jeff Backer said HF 2377 is awaiting a hearing in the Commerce Committee. He supports it and will soon be added at a co-author.

I urge you to use the contact information below to write, or call Senator Westrom asking him to support SF 2324, an important bill for rural Minnesota.

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