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House Approves National Service Legislation

March 19, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

AmeriCorps training day

The House yesterday approved it’s version of an expanded volunteer/national service package, one of President Barack Obama’s priorities for the legislative calender. The Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act sailed through the House by a vote of 321 to 105. The Senate is expected to vote on a companion piece, the Serve America Act, next week.

During his joint address to Congress three weeks ago, President Obama called for a “renewed spirit of national service,” and requested legislation expanding service and volunteer programs. The response from Congress is the GIVE Act, which will increase the number of AmeriCorps volunteers from 75,000 today to more than 250,000 (at a cost of about $5 billion). In addition, it would create new opportunities for service for youth, seniors, and veterans.

Most of the youth programs use college money as a hook: middle-school and high-school students who participate in summer programs would earn $500 to use on college. The education stipend for AmeriCorps would also be bumped to $5,350, matching a federal Pell Grant award. The legislation would also establish new scholarships and fellowships for seniors who want to transition from work to retirement or otherwise volunteer.

Critics of the legislation focused on the costs of funding so many new positions, and on a provision for a bi-partisan commission that would examine the feasibility of a national mandate for service.

Image (used under a Creative Commons license) by Matt Ewalt.

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