AmeriCorps, Other Programs on Funding Chopping Block

Congress considering cutting one-third of the funding for national service programs

By Molly Priddy

When he was first elected president, Barack Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009, a bipartisan act calling for a gradual increase of 250,000 AmeriCorps volunteers by 2017.

However, last month, congressional committees in both the House and Senate were taking serious looks at cutting funds for the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that oversees a multitude of service programs, the most prominent of which is likely AmeriCorps.

Some of these plans include cutting funding by at least one-third, which Heather Margolis, Montana state director for ServiceNation, said would be extremely detrimental to the programs running in the state, including AmeriCorps, Montana Conservation Corps, and the Senior Corps programs.

“These are critical programs that are high-impact programs that meet community needs and save taxpayer dollars,” Margolis said.

There are more than 6,000 National Service members in Montana, working with 850 organizations. In 2015, there will be more than $10 million in national service efforts leveraged into communities by local programs.

Since 1994, nearly 9,000 Montana members have served about 8.5 million hours, and Montana residents have qualified for more than $19 million in education awards through the programs.

In Kalispell, FoodCorps members are facilitating a farm-to-school-tray movement with local ranchers and farmers. Montana Conservation Corps members help winterize homes. Senior Corps members participate in the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) with programs such as foster grandparents.

The volunteers help with educational support; tutoring and mentoring, increasing access to college; helping Montanans navigate the court system, avoiding foreclosures; tax preparation; and enabling seniors to live at home.

Margolis said the proposed cuts would jeopardize 270,000 Senior Corps positions in the country, including 5,000 in Montana, because the cuts eliminate the agency’s ability to distribute and oversee grants.

She urged anyone concerned about the cuts to contact Montana’s congressional delegation.

“Montana needs national service champions in Congress speaking in favor of AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members’ impact and voting to reject proposed cuts,” Margolis said. “We need to invest in national service, not cut it.”

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