Wednesday, February 16, 2011

US Service Threatened by Proposed Budget Cuts

Last week I wrote about how budget cuts in the UK are affecting youth service programs. This week, I discuss the effects proposed cuts could have here in the US.

In the United States, national service has generally been a bipartisan issue. When the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which greatly expanded national service, passed in March 2009, it had broad bipartisan support, garnering seventy-one Republican votes in the House and twenty-one in the Senate.

In the aftermath of the 2010 elections, however, things seem to be changing. With Republican leadership under strong pressure to cut the budget by $100 billion, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) is proposing to eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service. Many programs fall under CNCS, including popular programs such as AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America (who oversees Summer of Service for which ICP is a grantee).

The elimination of these programs would be detrimental to all Americans. AmeriCorps members alone serve over 60 million hours a year, making critical differences in communities from education and disaster relief (see ICP’s 2010 report Transforming Communities through Service: A Collection of 52 of the Most Innovative AmeriCorps Programs). It would be far more expensive to hire people to do this work than it is to give a small stipend to AmeriCorps members. Learn and Serve has 1.2 million participants, many of which are students from high-risk, low-income schools. These are not services America can afford to lose.

President Obama realizes the importance of service in the US and was an ardent supporter of the Serve America Act. In his FY 2012 Budget, Obama requests $1.26 billion for CNCS, which is $109 million more than the current level. President Obama’s budget, however, is merely a first step. Republicans in the House seem poised to oppose an increase in CNCS funding, and any budget proposal will have to go through floor consideration, conference committees, and final passage (and perhaps contend with a Presidential veto).

Here at ICP, we hope that the President’s request is approved, and that the Corporation for National and Community Service is allowed to remain strong for years to come. And we’re not the only ones. National service has been a hot topic as of late, with many writing to discuss the importance of service in America. Here is a selection of recent news articles discussing the importance of national service:

General McChrystal: Why America Needs National Service

Bipartisan Case for National Service

Idea of the Day: We Can’t Eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service

Defund National Service, Cripple the Nation

Why Conservatives Should Love AmeriCorps, Not Kill It

Worried about how these potential cuts could affect your organization or community? Take Action! Voices for National Service is a great resource for information and activities regarding CNCS funding. Their website includes information on the proposal, instructions for calling your Member of Congress and talking points to make that phone call easier. Calling your Congressperson only takes a few minutes and could help save CNCS funding.

Have you contacted your member of Congress? Signed a petition? Worked in other ways to help save CNCS? Tell us about it in the comments.

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