AmeriCorps – Yet Another Casualty of the Budget?
I don’t know about you, but I’m frankly pretty sick of hearing about all of the things for which the House budget will cut funding. It’s depressing, and it’s frightening.
But unfortunately, there is one more that really needs to be addressed. The House budget would completely eliminate the funding for AmeriCorps and other service programs. So much for civic duties.
Since it’s creation by President Clinton in 1993, Americorps and other programs under the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) have provided jobs to more than 85,000 people annually. These service programs include critical work at homeless shelters, food banks, schools, after-school programs, senior centers, gardens, and more.
Last year I completed an AmeriCorps term in Environmental Education in Portland, OR. I was the team leader for a group of people who were some of the most dedicated, talented, and humble people I’ve ever met. The level of skill was incredible, and even more so was the drive to learn more, serve their communities, and live lives where they would make a real difference.
These members work for mere pennies. The stipends are at poverty level, and most members work incredibly taxing hours. These members take positions where they (and sometimes their families) will have to live a very meager life for a year so they can help their communities and build their leadership skills.
We are trying to build our economy, right? So how is taking away 85,000 comparitively cheap jobs that are making a real difference going to help that? It’s not only taking away jobs, it’s also taking away what I consider to be higher education, and missing the opportunity to strengthen the work ethic of some of America’s greatest workers.
What makes this blow even harder is that in April of 2009, President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which reauthorized and actually expanded AmeriCorps programs. This was an incredibly encouraging step for those in the service community, and that excitement has now been replaced by fear.
Depending on who you talk to, that fear may or may not be justified. While the Senate and President Obama have shown a commitment to AmeriCorps in the past, it is highly likely that there will be some “compromises” between the House budget and the President’s budget. Let’s hope AmeriCorps sticks around for many more years to come.
To learn more about CNCS and AmeriCorps programs, visit http://www.nationalservice.gov.
Photo courtesy of Americorps.gov