NARSVPD Written Testimony for the record to the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services
Betty M. Ruth
National Association of RSVP Directors, Inc.
We appreciate the opportunity to submit testimony about the funding level proposed for the RSVP program. RSVP is a senior volunteer program administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The National Association of RSVP Directors (NARSVPD) seeks an FY 2016 funding level of $63 million for RSVP. This is $15 million above the President's request and would restore funding for RSVP to the level it enjoyed in FY 2010 and would provide for an additional 75,000 volunteers. NARSVPD also proposes that this increase be allocated to strengthen existing RSVP programs.
RSVP provides opportunities for people 55 and over to make a difference in their communities through volunteer service. RSVP offers maximum flexibility and choice to its volunteers by matching the personal interests and skills of volunteers with opportunities to help solve community problems. It offers supplemental insurance while volunteers are serving, pre-service orientation, and on-the-job training from the agency or organization where volunteers are placed. RSVP volunteers get no stipend but are eligible for reimbursement for meals and mileage, as long as program budgets allow for it.
RSVP is not means tested and recruits volunteers without regard to income. Most serve between 10 and 40 hours a week, but there is no set schedule. RSVP is flexible and volunteers can be recruited and deployed to meet a wide variety of community challenges.
RSVP is cost-effective. The average federal RSVP grant is about $75,000 - equal to the national annual median rate of the cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home rate of $75,555 -- and the average annual cost per volunteer is $202 Independent Sector values an hour of volunteer service at $22. Using this multiple, RSVP volunteers provide about $900 million worth of service to the nation each year. Further, RSVP grantees must provide a match. The required non-federal share is a minimum 10 percent of the total grant in year one, 20 percent in year two, and 30 percent in year three and all subsequent years. Grants are awarded for a period of up to three years.
RSVP volunteers improve the lives of their neighbors and friends every day by meeting the needs of their communities. Theyhelp them prepare their tax returns, provide needed transportation services, offer respite to caregivers, deliver health and nutrition services, support veterans and military families, volunteer in parks, participate in disaster prevention and relief activities, and many other activities.
RSVP efficiently deploys 232,000 volunteers in more 625 programs that support the efforts of 38,000 community organizations across the nation. In FY 2014, RSVP volunteers delivered an estimated 40.4 million hours of service in their communities. Working through such networks as Area Agencies on Aging, city and county governments, local United Way organizations, social service agencies, faith-based organizations, and many others, RSVP volunteers served 329,000 veterans in activities such as transportation and employment service referrals; mentored more than 78,000 children; provided independent living services to 797,000 adults, primarily frail seniors; provided respite services to nearly 20,300 family or informal caregivers; engaged 20,100 veterans who served as RSVP volunteers and leveraged an additional 18,500 volunteers to support RSVP activities such as delivering meals to those in need and tutoring at-risk children.
RSVP is an important source of disaster prevention and relief.
In the year following the 2013 tornado, more than 90 volunteers from RSVP of Central Oklahoma contributed 4,515 hours to nine nonprofit and state organizations working in the recovery effort. RSVP volunteers answered disaster hotlines, performed follow-up calls to families affected by the disaster, served food and provided companionship at day shelters, provided survivors with rides to medical appointments, and collected and distributed donated goods to disaster survivors. Shell Company of the Americas contributed $50,000 to support the vital disaster recovery and preparedness services being provided by the RSVP of Central Oklahoma.
RSVP helps maintain the social safety net.
The RSVP Program at the All Peoples Christian Center in Los Angeles mobilizes 375 volunteers. They manage and implement supplemental food distribution programs at four faith-based food distribution programs in South and Southeast Los Angeles. According to CNCS, "RSVP volunteers manage the full operations at each site .... This year more than 1100 low-income individuals and families received USDA food as well as fresh fruits and vegetables on a weekly basis. Some 60 percent of the recipients reported that these programs improved their diet and allowed them to pay for basic necessities like rent and utilities by cutting their grocery bills." RSVP volunteers also conduct Spanish-English classes and mentor children.
RSVP helps seniors to live independently in two ways: volunteering helps keep seniors vibrant and RSVP volunteers help meet the needs of seniors to keep them in their homes.
Twenty-five RSVP Volunteers in rural Pike County, Alabama transport other seniors, an average of 15 per week, to medical appointments, drug stores, and to buy groceries or other necessities on a daily and weekly basis. They provide over 2500 trips annually allowing these 86 seniors to get medical care and continue to live independently in their own homes. Another 25 RSVP Volunteers call 85 frail homebound seniors, mostly living in a rural area, on a daily basis providing outreach and interaction, helping them remain mentally alert, feel safer, and enabling them to remain in their homes longer and avoid early institutionalization. 15 RSVP volunteers assist daily and weekly with local meal deliveries to an average of 89 frail and homebound seniors. Last year over 4800 meals were delivered by RSVP volunteers to assist seniors in receiving a nutritious meal, interact with volunteers and enabling them to remain in their homes longer and avoid premature institutionalization. The average cost of nursing home care in Alabama is $180.00 per day. That is $65,700.00 per year, per person. With RSVP volunteer assistance, 86 seniors remain in their homes yearly and save over $5,650,200.00 in nursing home costs to Alabama.
RSVP volunteers support veterans and military families.
Pike County RSVP has 20 RSVP volunteers who serve with its Veterans and Military Families initiative in which Troy University provides a classroom with 60 available computers and RSVP volunteers assist with job search, applying online and mock job interviews for Veterans and military families, assisting veterans and military families in researching and locating housing, schools, and support services. All told, these RSVP volunteers helped more than 200 veterans and military last year.
The National Association of RSVP Directors (NARSVPD) seeks an FY 2016 funding level of $63 million for RSVP. This is $15 million above the President's request and would restore funding for RSVP to the level it enjoyed in FY 2010 and would provide for an additional 75,000 volunteers. NARSVPD also proposes that this increase be allocated to strengthen existing RSVP programs.
Finally, RSVP is a "destination" for retiring "baby boomers." 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring everyday and will do so every day for the next 20 years RSVP is the only national program able to place large numbers senior volunteers in high quality volunteer positions. CNCS reported that RSVP has increased the number of baby boomers in the program and provides those volunteers with high quality activities that make use of their skills. Baby boomers in RSVP volunteer over 100 hours more than their counterparts who are not associated with RSVP. Virtually all of RSVP baby boomers who recruit/coordinate other volunteers are likely to continue in the program.