Governor Bevin & Donald Trump Are Wrong on Community Service Requirements

logoRemember at the start of the year when I warned that 2018 is the time for USA nonprofits to be demanding?

Well, here we go.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and Donald Trump, as well as governors all over the USA, want to require unemployed Medicaid members to volunteer with nonprofit organizations – or, probably, Christian churches – in order to receive those benefits.

This idea was first floated back in Spring 2017. At that time, Danielle Clore, executive director of the Kentucky Nonprofit Network, had a lot to say to Bevin’s office when it asked the group to support his proposal:

The bottom line is this will cost nonprofits money – money and resources we don’t have to spare. It takes professionals to effectively manage volunteers. For the experience to be valuable for both the agency and the individual, volunteer efforts have to be managed. Is it worth the limited and precious resources of a nonprofit to manage a volunteer that is there because ‘they have to be,’ not because they want to be? Nonprofit employees are spread so thin as it is and I feel like a volunteer requirement for anyone not truly committed to the mission of the agency isn’t an effective use of anyone’s time.

I do not typically take people who are ‘required’ to volunteer, because they don’t make good volunteers. Also, 20 hours is A LOT OF TIME. We don’t allow people to volunteer that many hours because at that point they could be considered a part time employee employee, and you have potential legal issues to consider.

Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, told Kentucky Health News in an interview at that time, “We need to provide them with the support services that they need, but forcing people to volunteer in order to get health care doesn’t make anybody healthier. We know this. There are data to suggest that. In fact, sometimes these stringent requirements put people in a position where they are unable to get care and then they get sick, and they are unable to work.”

I’ve blogged about all this before, in April 2017, when I said that requirements to volunteer are getting out of hand. And I’m calling on all nonprofit centers, all consultants regarding nonprofit management, including volunteer management, and everyone claiming to be advocates for volunteerism to speak out about this.

Here here’s my Facebook post about how I feel:

Nonprofits are not sitting around saying, “I wish several thousand people were forced to volunteer and they would then show up at our offices to do all this work we have just laying around waiting to be done by just any ole’ person that comes through the door.” Bevin and Trump are expecting nonprofits to involve several thousand more people as volunteers – people who are being forced into the act – but without funding all of the increased costs nonprofits are going to have to create more assignments and supervise these people. Nonprofits, don’t do it. Just DON’T. Not without a great deal more money.

Let’s see your statement.

Also see:

2 thoughts on “Governor Bevin & Donald Trump Are Wrong on Community Service Requirements

  1. Laura Rundell

    Hi Jayne – Thank you so much for writing this. That was my first reaction when I heard about the possibility of adding a volunteer requirement for this program.

    My agency and many in my area are already bombarded with an increasing number of people with service requirements imposed by the courts. This may sound like a great idea at first. People can avoid jail time by helping a local non profit. What the courts don’t realize, or just don’t want to address is that this is in effect and unfunded mandate to non profits. We have to fully vet any applicant who wants to serve our agency, which works with vulnerable clients. That takes staff time and resources as well as money, which sadly doesn’t come to us as part of the service requirement. I have had public defenders outright lie to me about what was in an applicant’s criminal record just so we would take them for their service requirement. Is it any wonder that fewer non profits even accept applicants with court mandated service?

    Having said that, we have had many court mandated volunteers who have taken this requirement seriously and provided good work at my agency.

    I understand that this situation is also frustrating for those who have been given this mandate by the courts. I spoke with someone last week, whose son had court mandated hours. He was really frustrated because as he put it “people are starving and in need — yet no agency wants to take my son who has hours required by the courts” (We’ll leave aside for now why his son wasn’t making these calls himself) I explained that we serve youth and other vulnerable clients and thus have to run a full clearance before any volunteer can serve at our agency.

    I greatly fear that if implemented by many states, this new requirement will either become another unfunded mandate to non profits and/or will put people looking to complete this service requirement in an untenable situation. If the requirement actually comes with the planning and funding to enable non profits to effectively vet, train and supervise volunteers with this service requirement, that is one thing, but just imposing yet another service requirement with out that planning or funding just puts one more burden on an already squeezed non profit sector.

    Thank you for getting out in front of this issue and yes, I think we all need to address this to policy makers considering this option.

  2. jcravens Post author

    “this new requirement will either become another unfunded mandate to non profits and/or will put people looking to complete this service requirement in an untenable situation” That sums it up PERFECTLY, Laura. I hope you or someone from your organization will write your local newspaper and local TV stations and say this. I’m both morally opposed to the idea of requiring people to perform community service in order to get health care coverage and outraged at the idea that nonprofits are being asked to do something that takes away from the work they need to do to meet their missions. I love to engage volunteers, including community service required folks, but in small numbers that I manage and have funding for – to be asked to take in dozens, even hundreds, of people, to be asked to create assignments for them, train them, supervise and support them, etc., with NO additional funding – yeah, I’m angry!


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