Friday, September 18, 2009

Senator Harkin Supports Serve America Act at Hill Day Kick Off

On September 15 national service advocates and practitioners from 40 states participated in Voices for National Service’s Hill Day. They rallied in Washington, DC, to ask their Senators and Representatives to fully fund the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. I attended the kick off event for Hill Day on behalf of Innovations in Civic Participation (ICP).

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and other service advocates addressed the crowd. The Senator emphasized the need for fully supporting the Serve America Act. The appropriation level he is requesting for the Serve America Act is higher than President Obama’s request and much higher than the House request. He urged participants in the Hill Day to ask their Representatives to support the Senate appropriation levels. To learn more and take action to support national service funding go here.

Senator Harkin spoke positively about working toward expanding AmeriCorps to 250,000 members by 2017 and he hopes that goal can be met sooner. He provided anectdotes about the important work of volunteers during disaster relief and focused specifically on the work of seniors. The Senator discussed increasing education awards and making it possible for SeniorCorps education awards to be transferred to any other person (not only family members) or perhaps individuals from low-income backgrounds.

The Senator was recently named chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee while also chairing the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. At the Tuesday event, Senator Harkin emphasized the importance of the HELP Committee and joked that appropriators and authorizers are always told to talk with each other and now he needs to talk with himself.

Following the Senator’s remarks Voices organizers sent participants off to a day of meetings advocating for national service.

Voices for National Service is a coalition of national service programs and organizations, state commissions and individuals who come together to advocate for national service. ICP is a Voices member. Voices was founded in 2003 in response to major cuts in federal funds for AmeriCorps. Voices members have participated in annual Hill Days since 2005. Thanks to the coalition’s work government support for national service in the US is now stronger then ever.

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