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Q&A: Salvation Army bell-ringers don't receive a cut of collections

Bell-ringers don't get a cut

While many who ring the bells for the Salvation Army during the holidays are unpaid volunteers, I have been told that many of the ringers are paid to work the bells, and that their pay is one-half of the money donated on their watch. Can this be true?

Most of the people who ring the familiar bells and stand before the red kettles for the Salvation Army are volunteers from civic groups, schools and other organizations.

When the Salvation Army has a shortage of volunteers, it does hire people to perform various jobs, especially seasonal ones like bell-ringing. Those folks are usually people who need work, such as the homeless or people in halfway houses, and they are paid the minimum wage or perhaps slightly above. They are not paid by how much money was collected on their shift.

The collection boxes are locked, and the nightly collection is counted by supervisors after the boxes are dropped off at a central office.

Bell-ringing as a fundraiser began in 1891, and now accounts for about 70 percent of the Salvation Army's annual income. More than 25,000 people participate, and in 2009 more than $139 million was raised. The Salvation Army provides food, clothing, toys and other assistance to about 30 million Americans who need help.

Formula determines COLA

Why is there no COLA for Social Security recipients and some pension plans? Please explain why everything is going up, but the government says there is no inflation.

Whether there is a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security recipients is determined by a formula, as specified by the Social Security Act. The formula uses increases in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), which are calculated monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the Social Security Administration website (www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/latestCOLA.html): "A COLA effective for December of the current year is equal to the percentage increase (if any) in the average CPI-W for the third quarter of the current year over the average for the third quarter of the last year in which a COLA became effective. If there is an increase, it must be rounded to the nearest tenth of one percent. If there is no increase, or if the rounded increase is zero, there is no COLA."

In English, that means the COLA is based on the difference between the CPI-W from the third quarter of 2010 and the highest peak reached in previous third quarters. That peak was in 2008, when energy prices spiked and the index reached 215.495, up from the 203.596 from the third quarter in 2007. So the COLA for 2009 was 5.8 percent.

In the third quarter of 2009, the index declined to 211.013. So there was no COLA for 2010. In the third quarter of 2010, the index was 214.126. So while the index was more than in 2009, it is still lower than 2008, so no COLA again for 2011.

For more on the CPI, see www.bls.gov/cpi/#faq.

Q&A: Salvation Army bell-ringers don't receive a cut of collections 11/08/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 8, 2010 5:32pm]
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