Monday, March 23, 2009; 7:24 PM
WASHINGTON -- The Senate agreed Monday to take up legislation to triple the size of the AmeriCorps program and open up opportunities for more people to serve their communities.
Lawmakers voted 74-14 to move to the legislation that would expand AmeriCorps from its current 75,000 positions to 250,000 over the course of eight years. Sixty votes were needed to bring the bill to the floor. The measure is expected to come up for a final vote in the Senate sometime this week.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who is being treated for brain cancer, made a rare appearance on the Senate floor to vote for the bill that he co-sponsored with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Kennedy's office said he is expected to be on Capitol Hill until Congress goes on recess April 4.
The legislation would also create five groups to help poor people, improve education, encourage energy efficiency, strengthen access to health care and assist veterans.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, said the proposal is an investment that "will pay dividends long beyond anything that we can imagine."
The House last week passed a similar bill to add 175,000 participants to AmeriCorps and other national service programs. President Barack Obama backs the legislation and has said he is eager for Congress to pass a bill so he can sign it.
Both bills would set up a fund to help nonprofit organizations recruit more volunteers and establish a Summer of Service program for middle and high school students, who would earn a $500 education award. Each measure would also create fellowships for older people who get involved in public service. Both would also increase the education awards of AmeriCorps participants, whose work ranges from teaching young people to responding to disasters.
After completing their service, AmeriCorps participants can receive up to $4,725 to help pay for college or pay off student loans. The Senate and House bills would increase that award to $5,350 and require that it match any future increases in Pell Grant scholarships. Unlike the House bill, the Senate version would allow older AmeriCorps members to transfer their education awards to their children or grandchildren.
Some AmeriCorps participants get a living stipend while they are working for 10 to 12 months. The stipend ranges from $11,400 to $22,800 for the year. Most participants, who are predominantly 18 to 26, get $11,800.
The Senate measure is slated to cost $5.7 billion over five years, while the House version is an estimated $6 billion over five years. Obama's proposed budget for next year calls for more than $1.1 billion for national service programs, an increase of more than $210 million.
The House bill is H.R. 1388.
The Senate bill is S.277.
On the Net:
A bill that would require 18-21 year olds to "volunteer". Isn't that called a Draft?
When calling Congress, it is best to keep your comments short, like this:
“I am calling to ask Senator _____ to vote NO on a bill that is due to reach the Senate floor next week. The name of this bill is The Serve Act and its number is S. 277.” That’s all you have to say; staffers are BUSY and will not ask you WHY you are stating this.
But you and I BOTH KNOW the reason: This bill is DANGEROUS for our youth, and now also for our seniors. It is not “voluntary” but “mandatory” and we want nothing to do with it!
Here is the news from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on this new bill:
It DOES say that “retirees” can be called into service, too!!
Here is the article on Fox News about the GIVE ACT – the House version that did pass yesterday, 3/18:
Note that SOME House members ARE concerned about the ramifications of this bill on the young.
Finally, here is an article from our friends in CANADA that “spills the beans” on the REAL AGENDA behind these two bills:
Senate switchboard: 202-224-3121
White House switchboard: 202-456-1414 ...
FREE NUMBERS TO CALL 1-800-828-0498 or 1-866-220-0044
What you can do......................
Make a phone call
Send an e-mail message - but call first
E-mail messages reinforce communications
sent through phone calls, and personal meetings To send e-mails
to Capitol Hill or the White House, please visit
the special e-mail action page at: www.nchla.org