Congress Gives Big Boost to National Service
Washington, March 19, 2009, Chronicle of Philanthropy — The move to expand the country’s national-service programs got a significant boost on Wednesday, when the House of Representatives adopted legislation to create an array of new volunteer projects and a Senate committee approved a similar measure.
The Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act, H.R. 1388, adopted in the House by a vote of 321 to 105, would also create a Social Innovation Fund to help nonprofit groups duplicate innovative programs that effectively tackle social problems and a Volunteer Generation Fund to help them recruit and manage volunteers.
The bill would triple the number of participants in programs like AmeriCorps to 250,000 by 2014, creating new “corps” to work in the fields of education, energy, health care, and services to veterans.
It would also create a Summer of Service for middle- and high-school students, Youth Engagement Zones to enlist young people in low-income neighborhoods in volunteer projects, and a program to allow colleges to get grants if they are designated “Campuses of Service.”
Other measures would create service-related fellowships and scholarships for people age 55 and over and a National Service Reserve Corps of national-service alumni who would respond to nationals disasters.
The legislation would also designate September 11 a National Day of Service and Remembrance to commemorate the 2001 terrorist attacks and increase the amount of the education grants awarded to AmeriCorps participants.
President Obama, who made national service a signature issue while on the campaign trail and who urged lawmakers to move quickly on it when speaking before a joint session of Congress in January, welcomed the vote.
“This legislation will help create opportunities for milions of Americans to serve their communities and help us meet our most pressing challenges,” he said in a statement.
Action now moves to the Senate, which is expected to vote on the Serve America Act, S. 277, next week. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee approved it on Wednesday. A summary of the bill appears here.
The Corporation for National and Community Service, which operates the national-service programs, said the action comes as interest in AmeriCorps is growing. The program received 9,371 online applications in February, more than triple the number in February 2008, it said in a statement.