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Volunteers get green light from legislature

Volunteers get green light from legislature

Resolution encourages Samaritans who drive elderly and disabled

NJ State Assembly Member Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Dist. 37) and State Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Dist. 38) were prime sponsors of a resolution encouraging volunteers to drive the elderly and disabled.
NJ State Assembly Member Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Dist. 37) and State Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Dist. 38) were prime sponsors of a resolution encouraging volunteers to drive the elderly and disabled.

State Jewish groups hailed legislative resolutions that will encourage more volunteers to serve as drivers for the elderly and disabled.

The concurrent resolutions, passed Monday by the State Senate and General Assembly, are meant to allay fears by volunteers that their volunteer driving could cause their auto insurance rates to rise.

The resolutions reaffirm that insurers do not use “volunteer driving” as a rating factor in setting premiums, and don’t punish volunteers who drive “safely and responsibly.”

The New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations led a coalition effort on behalf of volunteer drivers. Its executive director, Jacob Toporek, praised the legislative sponsors for encouraging volunteers.

“The myriad social service agencies operated by Jewish communities throughout New Jersey rely heavily on volunteers to fulfill their mission — and one of the key needs has been in securing transportation for populations in need, particularly seniors,” he said in a statement. “We are gratified to have worked with the legislature to bring this needed awareness to the issue.”

Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Dist. 38) was a prime sponsor of the Senate resolution, SCR 2, and an early leader on the issue. Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Dist. 37) was the prime sponsor of ACR 65 on the Assembly side.

“We appreciate the NJ Legislature passage of this resolution as we believe it will be helpful to encourage people to become volunteer drivers and to encourage insurance companies to provide preventive, supportive, and protective consideration for the volunteers. Currently there is no law preventing coverage for volunteer drivers,” said Gordon Haas, chair of the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. “The resolution will also raise awareness and help to change the culture to be a welcome environment for volunteers to drive seniors and other disabled populations without concern for unwanted ramifications for their good efforts.”

Other coalition partners advocating for volunteer drivers included Grace Egan, executive director of the New Jersey Foundation for Aging, and Linda Czipo, executive director of the Center for Non-Profits.

The resolutions urge all non-profits that work with volunteer drivers to include proper screening and supervision of drivers; encourage volunteerism by all facets of state government; discourage any future attempts by insurers to penalize “volunteer driving status”; and call on the automobile industry to encourage volunteer driving on behalf of seniors and the mobility-impaired.

As one of nine states with over one million seniors, New Jersey is bracing for a significant increase in the demand for nonprofit services for the aging. By the year 2030, the state’s senior population will be over 2.5 million.

“Among the greatest needs for our elderly, transportation services remain at the top of the list so that they can access the programming, health care, socialization, and nutrition services that our elderly care agencies provide,” said Rachel Cohen, director of Eldercare Services at Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. “However, the need has quickly outpaced our community revenue resources.”

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