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President Signs Service Legislation

April 23, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

Thelma

President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, authorizing the largest expansion in federally-subsidized service in almost two decades. The bill enjoyed bi-partisan support in the House and Senate, and paves the way for a major increase in the number of volunteers across the American population.

The central theme of the legislation is to triple, from 75,000 to 250,000, the number of volunteers participating in AmeriCorps and other service programs. It also aims to provide students, seniors and veterans with more opportunities to help in their communities. For example, retiring seniors could participate in “encore fellowships” that transition them from the work-force into mentoring and other roles.

We’ve written about some of the controversy surrounding the bill before, and though it passed with wide margins in both chambers the legislation did have detractors. Here on OpenCongress, many of the negative comments on the bill were directed at an amendment introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), which prohibited service organizations and participants from lobbying, protesting or conducting certain religious activities while on the government dime.

While the legislation authorizes $5.7 billion over six years to fund the program, Congress must still appropriate the funds. President Obama has requested $1.1 billion in the FY 2010 budget for the program.

Image (used under a Creative Commons license) by JuAnne Ng.

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