- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Both teens and baby boomers may soon be getting more opportunities to serve their communities.

A bill tripling the size of the AmeriCorps program that is scheduled for a House vote Wednesday would also create fellowships for people 55 and older and a separate Summer of Service program for middle and high school student volunteers.

The students in the new summer program would earn a $500 education award to help cover college costs.

The Obama administration on Tuesday endorsed the bill and its major focus: expanding AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000 enrollees with a new emphasis on residents of low-income communities in the areas of education, clean energy, health and services for veterans.

Supporters say the bill comes at a time when more people are interested in serving their communities and more people could use the help.

“This is absolutely an American value,” Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., told the House Rules Committee on Tuesday. “It’s at the core of the American community.”

But Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said the legislation would dampen the efforts of established volunteer organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America and replace them with a government program.

“It’s going to hugely diminish real volunteer organizations in favor of paid-stipend volunteers,” Sessions said.

Obama’s proposed budget for next year calls for more than $1.1 billion for national service programs, an increase of more than $210 million. Sponsors used next year’s figure as a blueprint for the bill but were awaiting a cost analysis from budget experts.

Some AmeriCorps participants get a living stipend while they are working for 10 to 12 months. The stipend ranges from $11,400 to $22,800 for the year. Most participants, who are predominantly 18- to 26-year-olds, get $11,800. After completing the program, they can receive up to $4,725 to help pay for college or pay off student loans. The bill would increase the education award to $5,350 and requires that it match any future increases in Pell Grant scholarships.

Members of AmeriCorps work for nonprofit, faith-based or national organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity. They provide a variety of service, from mentoring young people to responding to disasters.

Over the last year, AmeriCorps has received three applications for every slot, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the agency that oversees the program.

Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., have introduced a similar measure that also adds 175,000 positions to AmeriCorps. A Senate committee is scheduled to vote on its legislation on Wednesday and it could come before the full Senate for a vote as early as next week.


The House bill is H.R. 1388.

The Senate bill is S.277.


On the Net:

Congress: https://www.thomas.loc.gov

AmeriCorps: https://www.americorps.org/

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More

Click to Hide