Sens. Carper and Kaufman Vote to Increase Volunteer Efforts in Tough Times

WASHINGTON – Legislation to encourage more Americans of all ages to volunteer and help meet pressing national needs won the support today of U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Ted Kaufman (both D-Del.), who voted for the The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act (H.R. 1388) tonight.

“In the wake of the financial crisis, rebuilding our economy and restoring America’s financial power must occur from the ground up and within our own neighborhoods,” the senators said.  “This national service bill takes a big step toward providing Delawareans of all ages with the support and opportunities they need to volunteer in such key areas as education, health care, clean energy, and working with veterans and the less fortunate. We’re especially pleased that the bill provides more service opportunities for our engineers and scientists– a critical need as we move forward in an increasingly competitive global economy.”

This legislation – which now heads to the House of Representatives – builds on the success of the AmeriCorps program by more than tripling the number of volunteers, and creating five new focused corps within the program:

– Education Corps to help increase student achievement and graduation rates;

– Healthy Futures Corps to improve access to health care;

– Clean Energy Corps to encourage energy efficiency and conservation measures;

– Veterans Corps to assist our nation’s veterans; and

– Opportunity Corps to assist the economically disadvantaged.

This is the first expansion of our service programs in nearly two decades. Sens. Carper and Kaufman emphasized that the bill makes volunteering easier, and provides numerous opportunities for seniors to apply the skills and experiences they have gained over a lifetime.

An analysis of Americorps shows that every $1 invested produced returns of up to nearly $4 in direct, measurable benefits. Specifically, the Serve America Act will:

– Reauthorize the National and Community Service Act of 1990 and the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973, including Senior Corps, AmericaCorps and Learn and Serve America.

– Increase the number of national service participants from 75,000 to 250,000 over the next eight years.

– Establish a new Encore program to engage the retiring baby boom generation.

– Create two new programs – the Youth Engagement Zone to strengthen community programs and a Campus of Service program to support service-learning programs and help fund college students’ pursuit of careers in public service.

– Create a Summer of Service program to enlist middle and high school students in volunteer services at home, including a $500 education award for the cost of college.

– Increase the education award in AmeriCorps from $4,725 to $5,350, and link it to future Pell Grant increases. The bill would also permit to volunteers aged 55 and older to transfer the education award to a child or grandchild.

– Expand service opportunities for our Nation’s retiring professionals, including those retiring from the science, technical, engineering, and mathematics professions.

– Allow the creation of "Professional Corps" programs to recruit and place qualified professionals, like engineers and scientists, in organizations that work with communities that don’t have an adequate supply of these professions.