Urgent Letter to Key Senator and Representative on the Appropriations Committees Re: Americorps

SCA has just learned that there is potentially a very problematic situation brewing around funding for national service. The Appropriations Committee is, at this moment, finalizing the Omnibus appropriations bill (the money bill). For a variety of reasons, they are estimating that they will be $41 million short in funding for AmeriCorps State and National and the National Service Trust. Losing the AmeriCorps educational awards will make it hard, or even impossible for many young people to serve through SCA and other organizations.

This morning, SCA, along with a number of other organizations, signed on to the two letters (below) to the key Senator and Representative on the Appropriations Committees where this legislation is being debated.

December 3, 2008

The Honorable Tom Harkin
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable David Obey
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Harkin (and Chairman Obey):

We deeply appreciate your strong support for national service and we thank you for introducing a FY09 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill that would have provided the AmeriCorps State and National and the National Service Trust with $403 million; $3 million below the amount of funding the Corporation for National and Community Service said it needed to sustain the 2008 level of AmeriCorps members. Unfortunately, it now appears that the agency requires an additional $41 million, above the amount appropriated in the Continuing Resolution, to sustain the programs that are delivering much needed service to communities, many of which have been hit hard by the economic downturn, including programs that are critical to the rebuilding of the Gulf coast states.

We urgently request that your committee take this new information into consideration as you finish your work on the FY09 appropriations bills, and that you provide AmeriCorps with $ $420.3 million for program operating grants and the Trust.

In his call for an increased investment in AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve America, the Senior Corps, and other service programs, President-elect Obama has recognized how national service is helping to solve critical community problems, transforming our nation’s culture, developing a sense of civic commitment and uniting Americans from all walks of life in shared sacrifice. The loss of AmeriCorps positions will reduce opportunities for national service, as record numbers of Americans are engaging in community and public service, and as thousands more eagerly await the reauthorization of these programs and their expansion.

National service has had a profound effect on America’s community institutions. AmeriCorps has helped to change the way community and faith-based organizations operate and deliver services. Local and national non-profits can provide targeted services in an efficient and accountable manner when AmeriCorps members are part of the delivery system. Community-based organizations, school systems, land management agencies, public health officials, and others depend on AmeriCorps to get things done. At a time when the economic downturn is forcing painful cuts in services provided by states and localities and when thousands of nonprofits across the country are shutting their doors because of lack of resources, AmeriCorps programs should be growing, not closing.

Americans have stepped forward in record numbers to serve, but continued reductions in AmeriCorps funding has prevented the programs from growing at the rate necessary to meet the demand. Increasing the investment would deliver enormous benefits to communities by helping to address unmet needs and develop civic competencies.

AmeriCorps funds are awarded in the late winter, early spring. Only FY09 funds can prevent successful programs from closing. A decrease in AmeriCorps positions can damage the infrastructure of many small AmeriCorps programs that do not have the resources to sustain a cut to their budget for even one year – particularly in this economic downturn. Service programs are like small businesses. Once they are closed they cannot be re-opened a year or even several months later. Staffs are dismissed, civic partnerships are discontinued, leases are lost, business support withdrawn, and the trust of principals, teachers and other community partners in AmeriCorps evaporates.

We hope you will do everything possible to ensure that these programs are not closed or drastically cut, that needed service continue to be provided by AmeriCorps members, and that we can continue to tap the idealism and patriotism of so many of our citizens who want to serve.

We urge you to increase the FY09 appropriation for AmeriCorps State and National to ensure that AmeriCorps remains a strong and vital program today and in the future.

Sincerely,

Michael Brown, CEO and Co-Founder, City Year
James Cleveland, President, Jumpstart for Young Children
AnnMaura Connolly, Senior Vice President, City Year
Marguerite Kondrake, President and CEO, America’s Promise Alliance
Michelle Nunn, CEO, Points of Light Institute
Jill Pasewalk, National President & CEO, Camp Fire USA
Dale Penny, President, Student Conservation Association
Michael Rubinger, CEO and President, Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Paul Schmitz, President and CEO, Public Allies
Eric Schwarz, President and CEO, Citizen Schools
Dorothy Stoneman, President and Founder, YouthBuild USA
Marty Weinstein, Chairperson, California AmeriCorps Alliance