Thank you for contacting me regarding the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act (H.R.1388). The bill is now entitled the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. I appreciate hearing from you on this important legislation.
As you know, on March 9, 2009, Representative Carolyn McCarthy introduced what is now the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act in order to reauthorize and reform our national service laws. H.R.1388 is similar to the Serve America Act (S.277), which Senators Kennedy and Hatch introduced to the U.S. Senate on January 16, 2009. The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.1388 by a vote of 321 to 105 and the U.S. Senate passed an amended version of the bill on March 26, 2009 by a vote of 79 to 19. On the last day of March, the U.S. House of Representatives agreed to the Senate amendments, 275 to 149. I cosponsored the Serve America Act and supported the passage of the final bill on the floor of the U.S. Senate as I believe that volunteerism enriches the lives of volunteers and the individuals they assist, while helping to improve the overall quality of life in a community.
As you may know, the National Community Service Act of 1990 (NCSA) and the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 (DVSA) are the two main federally-funded community service and volunteer programs. NCSA programs, which include the School-and Community-Based Service-Learning Programs, the National Service Trust, Americorps and National Grants, and the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), seek to foster a sense of civic responsibility in the national consciousness as well as address the social and economic gaps that plague our society. Currently, the DVSA’s Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and the National Senior Volunteer Corps hone in on volunteer opportunities to aid our most vulnerable populations, from the elderly to the disadvantaged. While these programs expired in fiscal year 1996, Congress annually appropriated dollars to extend their services.
In addition to reauthorizing these existing programs through fiscal year 2014, H.R.1388 creates two new service-learning programs under the National Community Service Act, including the Innovative Service-Learning Programs and Research and the Campus of Service Program. The former funds community service-learning opportunities for elementary and secondary, college, and graduate students as well as research into service-learning. The latter annually grants up to 30 higher education institutions with exemplary service-learning programs the funds to assist their students’ pursuit of public service careers, and the right to nominate additional individuals for fellowships created under this Act.
The Act also adds a variety of national service Corps through the AmeriCorps program to address unmet needs related to clean energy, education, health, affordable housing, employment, financial literacy, and senior and veteran care. National Service educational awards for full-time AmeriCorps, NCCC, and VISTA participants will be funded at an equal level to the maximum Pell Grant available to students.
Furthermore, a Corporation for National Community Service provides grants to programs that have approved national service positions. The Corporation establishes pilot programs that promote cross-sector partnerships between the federal government, businesses, and non-profit organizations to replicate or expand proven local solutions to community challenges. Such pilot programs would better target and serve displaced workers. Finally, an Investment for Quality and Innovation Program provides fellowships to individuals in states that participate in service projects addressing national needs as well as to individuals over 55 who perform exemplary service and are transitioning into the public sector.
President Obama has called us to service; each and every American has a responsibility to our communities and to our fellow neighbors. Presently in Washington state, there are more than 47,000 residents already participating in over 154 national service projects that address local needs and revitalize our communities. The Edward M. Kennedy Service America Act is the most dramatic overhaul of our national service laws since the 1960s and has the potential to increase the number of annual federally-subsidized volunteering opportunities each year from 75,000 to 250,000. In the wake of our economic crisis, we need to turn to volunteerism and service to heal and restore our nation.
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United States Senator
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MY REBUTTAL: Thank you for your most comprehensive reply to my concerns over this issue. However, this flies in the face of my concerns which I expressed to you. These programs are too costly and is in my opinion, partisan in design and intent. As a “right-wing” extremist, as just categorized by the DHS, I believe that these programs are designed to promote the “left-wing extremist” agenda. You have let me down and I am disappointed in your actions. I will be posting this reply on my blog with your others so others may also be informed of your opinion. Do not count on my vote next election cycle.