Washington D.C., (September 20, 2023) – In a significant stride towards revitalizing rural transportation in Minnesota, Arrowhead Transit is at the forefront of a comprehensive legislative initiative aimed at fortifying volunteer driver networks. The proposed bill, currently advancing through the legislative process, has garnered wide-ranging support from a diverse coalition of representatives, stakeholders, and citizens, marking a potential turning point in the landscape of rural transit.
The primary impetus behind this legislative endeavor, introduced by Representative Stauber (MN-8) and Representative Craig (MN-2), is to rectify a longstanding issue that has impeded potential volunteer drivers. Presently, these individuals, who play a pivotal role in linking residents with crucial medical services, grapple with an unforeseen tax burden on their reimbursements. “Volunteer drivers are crucial to our rural Minnesota communities and to our seniors, as they help deliver meals and provide transportation for healthcare services,” said Congressman Stauber. “It’s critical that we support our volunteer drivers while they provide these invaluable services. By increasing the mileage rate for volunteer drivers and thus lessening the burden for them, they’ll have greater peace of mind, and more people will donate their time to help their fellow community members. Volunteering is a selfless act, and our volunteers should not be penalized for their service.” This peculiarity, which departs from the treatment of similar reimbursements in other professions, has been identified as a deterrent to prospective volunteers.
Brandon Nurmi, Director of Arrowhead Transit, emphasized the profound significance of this proposed legislation during an articulate interview. “This bill represents a clarion call to alleviate the financial strain on our dedicated volunteer drivers. They are the lifeblood of our rural transportation system, ensuring that individuals can access vital medical appointments. We implore our legislators to rally behind this cause and make their selfless contributions more sustainable.”
Colette Hanson, a luminary in her role as Associate Director of Finance at Arrowhead Transit, further elucidated on the profound human connections forged through volunteer driving. “These drivers are not mere providers of a service; they are cultivators of trust, companionship, and enablers of independent living within our community.”
Since the introduction of tax regulations in 2017, the volunteer driver program, which once boasted an impressive roster of over 300 participants, witnessed a precipitous decline. The ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have further hindered efforts to replenish these invaluable volunteers.
Currently, Arrowhead Transit counts approximately 103 committed volunteer drivers, tasked with providing essential transportation services across ten Northeastern Minnesota counties. This shortfall exacerbates the challenge of delivering comprehensive transportation options for residents, particularly in regions where public transit infrastructure remains limited.
Advocates assert that, beyond alleviating the tax burden on volunteer drivers, the bill carries wider ramifications for the community at large. By incentivizing individuals to step forward and assist their neighbors, it has the potential to sustain residents in their homes, reducing the necessity for costly assisted living facilities or precipitate relocations to areas with more robust transportation access.
Elected representatives who have pledged their bi-partisan support for the bill firmly believe that it marks a pivotal stride toward fortifying rural communities. With a robust coalition lending their weight to this legislative endeavor, including the tireless efforts of Arrowhead Transit, there is palpable optimism that this bill will traverse the legislative landscape with celerity and resolve.
As the proposal gains undeniable momentum, Arrowhead Transit and its steadfast allies harbor hopeful aspirations that their collective advocacy will engender a brighter, more accessible future for rural residents in Minnesota. The bill, though primarily designed to address the immediate tax concerns of volunteer drivers, also serves as a poignant acknowledgment of the profound impact these unsung heroes exert on the lives of those they serve.
“I’m teaming up with Representative Stauber on this bipartisan effort to give those drivers the support they’ve earned for serving our communities because it’s the right thing to do. I look forward to working with him to move this bill forward and support Minnesota’s volunteer drivers.” said Representative Angie Craig.
Furthermore, this legislation harmoniously aligns with broader statewide initiatives in Minnesota to augment rural infrastructure and connectivity. Rural communities often contend with restricted access to essential healthcare services, and volunteer drivers constitute an indispensable lifeline to these vital medical resources.
In a statement of support, Representative Angie Craig expounded upon the far-reaching benefits of the proposed bill. “This legislation transcends mere tax relief; it is an investment in the very health and well-being of our cherished rural communities. Volunteer drivers are the unheralded champions, and they deserve every iota of support we can muster.”
As the bill continues its inexorable journey through the intricate legislative process, Arrowhead Transit and its resolute allies stand unwavering in their commitment to empowering volunteer drivers and ensuring that rural residents enjoy unfettered access to the services they need to lead healthy, independent lives. The proposed legislation stands as an enduring testament to the indomitable power of community-driven initiatives in shaping policy and fostering enduring positive change.
“Countless seniors, veterans, and individuals living with disabilities across Minnesota rely on volunteer drivers to help them access important appointments, food, and other necessities,” said Congressman Pete Stauber. “These selfless volunteers make a huge impact, especially in the rural communities I represent. That’s why I introduced legislation to lessen the financial obstacles that volunteer drivers often face, and I am grateful to the Arrowhead Transit team for traveling all the way to Washington to advocate on this legislation’s behalf.” – Congressman Pete Stauber
Contact: Dominick Olivanti
Public Relations Coordinator Arrowhead Transit
Office Phone: 218-753-6815