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AmeriCorps Program Faces Drastic Cuts

By Shannon Holmes
July 14, 2003


Despite President Bush's call for expansion of AmeriCorps during his 2002 State of the Union Address, the future of AmeriCorps, the leading community service program in the country, is in significant trouble.

Recently, the Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS) announced severe cuts in the AmeriCorps program in the coming fiscal year. This is due to internal accounting and mismanagement of the trust that was established for AmeriCorps and the decrease in funding proposed by President Bush for the FY 2004 budget. Many Governors have been told that they will have program and volunteer cuts anywhere from 50 to 90 percent. This will effectively shut out 16 states completely from funding. At best, CNCS may be able to enroll 28,000 new members of the 50,000 positions that are allowed by Congress. One of the major programs under AmeriCorps will be cut from 16,000 volunteers to a mere 3,000 countrywide.

Out of the 466 applications for grants received by the CNCS this year for next year's funding cycle, only 53 grants were awarded. Smaller states like West Virginia, Maine, and New Hampshire were each able to have 100 AmeriCorps volunteers last year, and now each will be lucky if they will be able to fund 10 positions. South Carolina will lose 231 out of the state's 267 positions, while New York will only have 149 positions versus the 3,000 this past year. Cities will be particularly affected by the cuts because most of the AmeriCorps programs operate at the local level. AmeriCorps volunteers and/or programs will either be drastically limited or eliminated totally.

Conference President Hempstead (NY) Mayor James A. Garner sent a letter to President Bush supporting AmeriCorps as a valued community service program for not only cities, but also for the entire country. In the letter, Garner requested that the President include funding for this important program in the supplemental appropriations in the coming months.

In letters sent to the President, 24 Senators and 146 Representatives requested that the $200 million for AmeriCorps be included in the President's supplemental appropriations request that he will present to Congress in the fall. The President in his FY 2004 budget request proposed $324 million for AmeriCorps, a $40 million decrease from FY 2003. President Bush submitted his request July 8 for the 2003 Supplemental Appropriations to Congress and there was no request for additional funding for the AmeriCorps program.

Bipartisan members of Congress in both the Senate and the House of Representatives have expressed great concern for the future of AmeriCorps. On June 19, Congress passed S 1276, The Strengthen AmeriCorps Program Act, which would address the accounting and mismanagement issues at the CNCS. The Senate Appropriations Committee on July 9 attached the Supplemental Appropriations to the Legislative Spending Bill, in order to move it quickly, and included $100 million for AmeriCorps, which is expected to pass the Senate. It is expected that there will be opposition by the Majority in the House to including this in the Supplemental.

Over 300,000 Americans have served in AmeriCorps since was established in 1992 and 900 programs have been built nationwide, leveraging over $1 billion in private sector support. Volunteers in this program are able to meet the critical needs of every day in America: tutoring children, restoring green spaces, assisting the elderly, building affordable housing, and, most recently, helping with homeland security. AmeriCorps members volunteer full-time and receive a Public Service Scholarship after completing their service to be used for past or future education.

Unfortunately, without supplemental appropriations, the drastic decrease in AmeriCorps positions will not only be devastating to the volunteers who serve, but to the people and cities all around the country.

For more information about the AmeriCorps program please visit www.americorps.org.