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Senate Passes Historic Bipartisan Expansion of National Service

March 27th, 2009

Following House action last week, the United States Senate voted last night  79-19 to pass the most sweeping expansion and reform of national service programs in a generation. The legislation was renamed the “Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.” The Senate’s action follows the 321-105 House vote last week in support of H.R. 1388, the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act.  The Senate passed a substitute that largely mirrors the House bill, and differences between the versions are minor.  House leaders are planning for a vote on the Senate-passed bill as early as Monday.

The legislation would update and strengthen national service programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency created in 1993. The Maine Commission for Community Service has been the states funder for AmeriCorps programs for more than 15 years. Maine’s delegation, Senators Snowe and Collins and Representatives Pingree and Michaud, have all been supporters of the legislation. If the bill is signed into law the Maine Commission for Community Service’s capacity to support national service programs and the Maine volunteer sector will be greatly increased. 

The bill contains a wide range of provisions to expand service opportunities and strengthen program management, including:

  • Grow national service participants from its current level of 75,000 to 250,000 with focus on priority needs including advancing student achievement and graduation, providing economic opportunity, increasing energy efficiency, improving health care access, and enhancing service opportunities for veterans.
  • Increases the amount of the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award that AmeriCorps members receive from $4,725 to the Pell Grant amount of $5,350.
  • Strengthens the nation’s civic infrastructure through creation of a Social Innovation Fund to provide seed money and scale up innovative and evidence-based initiatives and a Volunteer Generation Fund to award grants to nonprofits and states to recruit, manage, and support volunteers.
  • Provides incentives for middle and high school students to engage in service.
  • Expands service opportunities for older Americans by expanding eligibility for the Senior Companion and Foster Grandparent programs, introducing competition into the Retired Senior Volunteer Program to better position the program for expansion, and creating other opportunities for Baby Boomers and other older Americans to transition into post-career service opportunities.

The Maine Commission for Community Service builds capacity and sustainability in Maine\'s volunteer sector by funding service programs, developing volunteer managers, raising awareness of the scope and impact of the sector, and encouraging an ethic of service.  To learn more about the Maine Commission for Community Service visit our web-site at www.maineservicecommission.gov.