A House committee has approved a bill that aims to increase volunteerism among the large pool of baby boomers.
The Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act, or "GIVE Act," green-lights several national service programs with three amendments that specifically focus on older Americans. They include: requiring states to develop plans to tap baby boomers and older adults for volunteer and paid work; offering "time banking" by creating local service exchanges in which organizations reciprocate volunteer service; and encouraging bilingual volunteer recruitment to expand the reach of programs and services in which older Americans typically participate.
"You’re seeing both state governments and federal governments look at how to handle the aging boomer generation," said Dan Klotz, spokesman for Experience Wave, which seeks to advance federal and state policies that make it easier for older adults to stay engaged in work and community. "It’s not just a question of Social Security or Medicare, the larger question is: if folks are still going to be active economically, how do you make sure they can stay active and how do you address their needs?"
The legislation, approved by the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor on Wednesday, is important at a time when the need for boomer volunteers is rising quickly. Americans born between 1946 and 1964 are volunteering at higher rates than their ancestors, but many want higher skill assignments that keep them engaged. A recent report by the Corporation for National and Community Service found that three out of every 10 boomers who volunteer today leave their organizations each year. Given the potential for turnover, many nonprofit organizations are becoming more mindful of keeping their volunteers engaged.
"The baby boomers represent the most active, healthy, and educated retiring generation in the history of the United States," said former Sen. Harris Wofford, who helped organize the Peace Corps in 1961. "Their 'retirement' presents an incredible opportunity for businesses, communities, and nonprofit organizations."
The committee agreed that two additional amendments should be considered when the GIVE Act makes its way to the House floor for debate. One amendment calls for providing grants to community colleges and other nonprofits that will serve as resources for individuals seeking paid and volunteer jobs, as well as "life planning." The other amendment focuses on a $1,000 scholarship program for those 55 and older who are generating at least 500 hours of volunteer service a year. That scholarship would be deposited in an education fund for use by the individual or his or her children or grandchildren. About $20 million of funding would be authorized.
No timeframe has been set for hearing the bill on the House floor, Mr. Klotz said.