Senate Recognizes VISTA’s 45th Anniversary

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution honoring the work of Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), for its 45 years of work towards alleviating poverty, and other accomplishments.

Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-VA) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) introduced the resolution (S.Res.449), and were joined by several co-sponsors. Rockefeller first lived in West Virginia as a VISTA, when he was 27 years old.

The resolution recognizes the more than 175,000 VISTAs who have served since 1965, and their creation of “many successful and sustainable community initiatives, including Head Start centers, credit unions, and neighborhood watch groups.” The resolution honors VISTAs’s work on diverse poverty-related issues such as health care, technology, crime/recidivism, housing, and literacy. The resolution also highlights these numbers:

  • 7,000 VISTAs serve each year
  • Annually, VISTAs bring in $100 million in cash and in-kind donations to their organizations
  • Also each year, VISTAs recruit 1 million volunteers who engage in 10 million hours of volunteer service.

Read the entire Senate resolution here. Oddly, the House introduced a similar bill (H.RES.1152) last week, but it wasn’t passed; instead it’s been referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.

According to a statement today from the Corporation for National and Community Service, which operates VISTA, the resolution marks the official kick off of VISTA’s 45th anniversary celebration — a series of events and celebrations that will take place this year.

Celebrations will include a photography exhibit of VISTA photography from 1968, an effort to collect and share stories of VISTAs, and I’ll be launching a podcast episode featuring three VISTAs who’ve served across the decades during AmeriCorps Week in May.

Are you a VISTA or former VISTA? How will you commemorate the 45th anniversary of the organization?

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Alan Khazei, City Year Co-Founder, Running for the Senate in Massachusetts — Election in Two Weeks

Update, Dec. 9: Although Alan Khazei gained the endorsements of many prominent people and even The Boston Globe, he was defeated at the polls during the Democratic primary Dec. 8th, by Martha Coakley, Massachusetts Attorney General. Khazei won 13 percent of the popular vote during yesterday’s election.

Among the hopefuls to fill Ted Kennedy’s long-held Senate seat is City Year founder Alan Khazei.

Alan Khazei, from his campaign website

Twenty years ago Alan Khazei and Michael Brown co-founded City Year, a national service corps that became a model for AmeriCorps in the early 90s. Today, Khazei is campaigning his heart out in Massachusetts to fill the Senate seat left empty on August 25th when Senator Ted Kennedy passed away from a brain tumor.

Khazei had worked closely with Senator Kennedy to create and garner Congressional support for several pieces of legislation for national service programs, including the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1990, AmeriCorps, Save AmeriCorps, and this year’s landmark Kennedy Serve America Act.

On other issues, Khazei stands with Kennedy’s positions as well, including his sense that No Child Left Behind — Continue reading

Senate Appropriations Committee Backs Funding for the Kennedy Serve America Act

Yesterday the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $1.157B to fund the Corporation for National and Community Service implementation of the Kennedy Serve America Act.

The figure is greater than the $1.149B requested by President Obama, the $1.059B that the House of Representatives passed in its appropriations bill, and the 2009 fiscal year budget of the Corporation.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senators Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) and Thad Cochran (R-MS), issued a statement:

The bill includes $1.157 billion for the Corporation for National and Community Service. This level is $267 million above the fiscal year 2009 enacted level. The Committee recommendation puts AmeriCorps on the path to 250,000 members, the goal approved by Congress earlier this year in the SERVE America Act. The Continue reading

Roosevelt Scholarship Would Offer Students Funding in Exchange for Public Service Commitment

New College, photo from Anne.Oeldorf's Flickr stream

New College, from Anne.Oeldorf's Flickr stream

Update, July 30, 2009: Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Michael Castle (R-DE) introduced the Roosevelt Scholars Act of 2009 in the House.

The Roosevelt Scholars Act aims to create a new pipeline to public service careers for graduate students who are developing skills desperately needed by the federal government.

The Roosevelt Scholars Act, which was introduced last year in the House of Representatives but not yet during this year’s 111th Congress, would create a scholarship program to fund graduate education for students who demonstrate outstanding potential for a career in a mission-critical occupational area within the federal government, and who in turn would commit to three to five years of service in a federal government agency. The scholarship would would be similar to ROTC, but instead of committing to military service, students would commit to Federal government service.

Rep. David Price (D-NC) is planning to introduce the legislation in the House before the August recess. (Last year, he and RPCV Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) introduced the legislation; Shays was not reelected last November.)

The Act would establish a small foundation called the Theodore Roosevelt Scholarship Foundation to administer the scholarships, including tuition and living expenses. Scholarships could amount to as much as $60,000 per student per Continue reading

The House Approves $450M for More Peace Corps, but Senate Committee Approves $373.4M

Rep. Nita Lowey, Chair, House Appropriations Cmte

Rep. Nita Lowey, Chair, House Appropriations Cmte

A few weeks ago, the House Appropriations Committee recommended increasing Peace Corps funding to $450 million. Thursday, the House voted to approve funding at that level. The same day, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to match Obama’s more modest $373.4M budget request for the agency.

While the Corporation for National and Community Service — the agency that coordinates and oversees the AmeriCorps family of service programs — had a disappointing day in a House subcommittee yesterday, Peace Corps won a huge increase in funding as its supporters in the House defeated an amendment that would have only moderately increased funding for the agency in the fiscal year 2010.

The increase — if matched in the Senate — would mean Peace Corps could start ramping up Volunteer numbers, as Obama has called for doubling Peace Corps by the agency’s 50th anniversary in 2011.

According to the National Peace Corps Association’s blog the Peace Corps Polyglot: Continue reading

RPCV Senator Dodd Introduces More Peace Corps Bill

This week, RPCV Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) introduced s.1382, the Peace Corps Improvement and Expansion Act of 2009.

The bill, as currently written, would authorize $450,000,000 for fiscal year 2010; $575,000,000 for fiscal year 2011; and $700,000,000 for fiscal year 2012 — representing a gradual increase to double Peace Corps’s current budget. The bill also requires the agency director carry out assessments that lead to a new strategic plan. (As of now, Obama hasn’t appointed a new Peace Corps director, Jody Olsen serves as Acting Director.)

Read the legislation (PDF). After it was introduced, the bill was sent to the Committee on Foreign Relations. (Is your Senator a member of this committee?)

Here is the transcript of Dodd’s speech on the floor of the Senate Thursday. Thanks to Jonathan Pearson at the National Peace Corps Association for this text:

Mr. President:

I rise today to introduce the Peace Corps Improvement and Expansion Act of 2009.

For 48 years, the Peace Corps has stood as a uniquely American institution.  What other great nation would Continue reading

Update: National Service Funding in the Stimulus Package

2/11/09: Check out this post about the Senate compromise version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

1/29/09: The Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) offers a legislative update.

But Steve Waldman takes issue with the details of the package.

Nicola Goren, the Acting CEO of CNCS, summarized details of the stimulus package — the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 — that passed in the House yesterday; and the version that is up for a vote in the Senate.

Regarding the House of Representatives, according to Goren:

Earlier tonight, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, their version of the bill, by a vote of 244-188. The legislation includes $200 million for the Corporation for National and Community Service. According to the House Committee Report, $160 million is provided for AmeriCorps State and National to expand “existing AmeriCorps grants” and $40 million is for the National Service Trust. The committee report cites the challenges facing the nonprofit sector and notes that “nonprofit organizations are also experiencing an increased number of applications for service opportunities and increased demand for services for vulnerable populations to meet critical needs” and suggests the funding would engage an estimated 16,000 more AmeriCorps members.

The bill contains additional legislative language addressing the proposed use of these funds. To read the bill language or committee report, visit the Library of Congress’s Thomas website at http://thomas.loc.gov/ and click on HR1: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 . You can also get the report, the committee-passed version of the bill, and other information from the House Appropriations Committee website at http://appropriations.house.gov/.

And regarding the progress of the Senate’s version of the same bill:

Yesterday, the full Senate Appropriations Committee approved S. 336, its version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. According to the committee report, the bill contains $200 million for the Corporation and its programs, broken down as follows:

  • $160 million for AmeriCorps, of which:
    • $65 million for AmeriCorps State and National grants
    • $65 million for AmeriCorps VISTA
    • $13 million for research related to volunteer service
    • $10 million for AmeriCorps NCCC
    • $6 million for upgrades to information technology
    • $1 million for State Commissions
  • $40 million for the National Service Trust

Additional language concerning the intended use of these funds is contained in the bill text and committee report. Both are available now on the Senate Appropriations Committee website at http://appropriations.senate.gov/. To view the bill text, click on Text of S336, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. For the committee report, click on American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan Report.

The next step is for the full Senate to take up the legislation, which is expected to occur next week. Following Senate passage, the House and Senate will meet in a conference to work out differences between the measures. We will keep you posted on further developments.

To read about other potential funding for national service this year, check out the Serve America Act, and this New York Times editorial advocating for its passage.

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