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Invest in America, Invest in AmeriCorps

Posted by Karen Traeger on May 04 2015
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By:  Jack Hipkins

The United States should invest in America’s future by increasing funding for AmeriCorps in order to expand the number of volunteers the organization can support on an annual basis.

AmeriCorps is civil society program that works to engage Americans in community service projects throughout the country. The program was created in 1993 during the Clinton administration by combining the VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), National Civilian Community Corps, and AmeriCorps State and National groups into one entity.

AmeriCorps programs invest in America’s future through community service projects in many different fields. For example, the AmeriCorps VISTA program is designed to build economic opportunity and reduce poverty in some of the poorest urban and rural areas of the nation. Another AmeriCorps program Operation UNITE Service Corps, provides after school math tutoring and organizes programs to address drug prevention and nutritional education.

These programs greatly help to provide for America’s needy, and are extremely effective. For every dollar invested by the federal government, the national service has a return investment of 4-to-1.

Yet despite all of the benefits of the AmeriCorps program, funding to AmeriCorps has been cut due to sequestration, and the program was even threatened with extinction in 2014 by a budget proposal by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.

However instead of proposing to reduce funding for AmeriCorps, the US government should be discussing plans to increase funding. The average ratio of applicants to positions for AmeriCorps programs is 5 to 1, and every year hundreds of thousands of Americans are turned away.  In 2011 there were 582,000 applications for the 80,000 positions at AmeriCorps.

If the US government provided funding to increase the number of positions available in AmeriCorps programs, we would only be helping ourselves by making sound investments in the poorest parts of the nation. Therefore, president Obama should place the expansion of AmeriCorps higher on his list of priorities, and should rally democrats in the House and Senate for support. In addition, ordinary Americans have to write to their congressional representatives urging them to support AmeriCorps. In times of economic uncertainty, it is more important than ever to invest in the future of America. 

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