Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act

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To reauthorize and reform the national service laws.
Sponsor: Carolyn McCarthyCommittees: House Committee on Education and the Workforce

Article summary (how summaries work)
The Serve America Act of 2009 (H.R. 1388) aims to expand the number of volunteer service opportunities for Americans, with a federal goal of 250,000 positions for AmeriCorps volunteers, seniors, students and veterans.[1] The legislation creates a framework for an expanded service program, and would cost $5.7 billion over a six-year period.[2] The legislation was signed by President Barack Obama on April 21, 2009. He has requested $1.1 billion in the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget to fund the first year.[3]


Bill summary

The legislation aims to expand the number of federally-funded service positions by growing AmeriCorps and developing new programs to encourage service. Major initiatives of the legislation are:

  • Increased funding for AmeriCorps, a federal program that funds volunteers for non-profit groups, public agencies, and faith-based organizations. Organizations participating in AmeriCorps receive grants to recruit and train volunteers, who typically work 1,700 hours during an 11-month period. In return for their service, they receive about $12,000 for living expenses, health care coverage, and an education grant.
    • The amount for the education grant is being increased from $4,725 to match the Federal Pell Grant (which is currently $5,350) as part of the Serve America Act.
    • Ten percent of the new AmeriCorps positions will be targeted at Americans over the age of 55. Those individuals would be able to user their education stipend, or transfer it to a child, grandchild, or other young person.[4]
  • Creation of a "Summer of Service" program for middle- and high-school students. Those students who volunteer in a qualifying program will receive a $500 scholarship that can be used to pay for higher education.
  • Establish an "Encore Fellowships" program that will serve as a transition for retirees and seniors who want to pursue a full- or part-time service role. There will be 10 such fellows in each state, earning a $22,000 stipend (with $11,000 maximum provided by the government, and the rest matched by the participating organization).[4]

Bill history

Originally the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act in the House, it was renamed when the Senate took up its version of the bill, the Serve America Act.


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2008 House Scorecard

Org. position: Nay


""Create an Energy Conservation Corps to support energy conservation and infrastructure improvements. March 6. (252-161)"

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20090228_4813.php)

The House took up consideration of H.R. 1138 on March 6, 2009, and was reported out of the House Committee on Education and Labor on March 16. An early draft of the bill included a controversial provision to examine mandatory service within the United States. That provision — which would have created a commission to examine the feasibility of mandatory service — was removed from the bill and reintroduced as separate legislation (H.R.1444).

The House also approved an amendment offered by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) that prohibits any funding for the program being used for religious instruction, lobbying and other activities already prohibited by federal law.[5]

The House approved the measure by a vote of 321-105:


The Senate began debate of the House measure on March 23, 2009, and invoked Cloture that day:

However, on March 26 the legislation was tabled after Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) introduced an amendment allowing crisis pregnancy centers to participate in the service program.[6]

The legislation was taken up again on March 26, and the text of the Senate's version, the Serve America Act, was inserted into the GIVE Act as a substitute amendment. The Senate also renamed the legislation after Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).


The House approved the Serve America Act by a 275-149 margin on March 31, 2009:

Bill becomes law

President Obama signed the bill into law on April 21, 2009.[7]

Articles and resources

See also


  1. Open Congress' info page on Serve America Act of 2009
  2. Donny Shaw, "More on the GIVE Act," OpenCongress Blog, March 23, 2009
  3. Peter Baker"Obama Signs Volunteer Bill With Nod to Kennedy Era", The New York Times, April 21, 2008
  4. 4.0 4.1 Terry Nagel, "Encore Careers for America: Serve America Act Creates New Opportunities," Encore.org, retrieved April 22, 2009
  5. David Waldman, "Here comes Teh Stupid: Wingnuts flip out over phantoms -- again," CongressMatters.com, retrieved April 22, 2008
  6. " U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 111th Congress - 1st Session" Senate.gov, retrieved April 22, 2009
  7. Susan Milligan, "President signs $5.7 billion measure to boost volunteerism", The Boston Globe, April 21, 2009.

External resources

External articles