How Will a New Bill Help Volunteers During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

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Two U.S. senators have introduced legislation to ensure that older adults can continue to volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Senior Corps Distance Volunteering Act, introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), aims to allow older adults “to safely connect remotely to volunteer and community engagement opportunities.”

McKnight’s Senior Living’s article entitled “Bipartisan bill aims to ensure safe volunteering for older adults during COVID-19 pandemic” explained that Senior Corps is a network of national service programs for Americans who are age 55+. The article explains that these volunteers address elder care, academic tutoring and mentoring, disaster relief support and more.

“National service and volunteer programs represent some of the best of our country, and older Americans play a huge role by volunteering through Senior Corps,” Senator Klobuchar said. “This legislation would help ensure that seniors can remain engaged and connected to their communities through volunteer service without risking their health during the pandemic.”

The legislation calls for $5 million for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which manages the Senior Corps program. That money would go towards establishing an online platform to facilitate programs during the pandemic through distance volunteering.

In April, Senator Klobuchar and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced the Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act. This bill increases the number of citizens who can serve each year through AmeriCorps.

“Americans have a long history of responding to national calls to service in times of crisis,” Coons said. “Today, AmeriCorps members are already hard at work in our communities supporting students as they learn remotely, helping patients make critical care decisions, and more. These programs can and should be expanded to meet the needs of this moment. As we work to recover from the dual challenge of a public health crisis and an economic crisis, national service presents a unique opportunity for Americans to be part of our response and recovery, while earning a stipend and education award and gaining marketable skills. Expanding these programs to all Americans who wish to serve should be a key part of our recovery effort.”

A study recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that volunteering more than 100 hours every year gives seniors health benefits. Adults 50 or older have seen a 44% lower risk for mortality, and a 17% reduced risk of impaired physical function, compared to those who did not volunteer.