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Commission Minutes

May 15, 2020

Present:  Ed Barrett, Celeste Branham, David Burns, Julia Flori, Matthew L’Italien, Jessica Nixon, Anne Ostberg, Lisa Phelps, John Portela, Maria Staples, Jenifer Tilton-Flood.

Public Comment Period.  No public comments were offered.

Chair Branham called the meeting to order at 10:08 am.  After Commission member introductions, it was noted there was one correct answer to the Commissioner quiz. The policy change that would be set through legislation is tying the AmeriCorps living allowance to 175% of the poverty line which would make it just under $22,000 for 2021.

Commission Retreat.  The Chair proposed two possible dates, September 24-25, and October 1-2 as an alternative.  All members will be polled before starting the preparations for the retreat. As a reminder the next meeting will be June and include election of officers. There will not be meetings in July or August.  The Commission leadership team will make preparations for the retreat during these months.  Commission members will be surveyed for retreat content suggestions.

No additions, deletions or other changes to the agenda were requested.  Moved by Tilton-Flood to approve the agenda. Second by Portela. Vote on the motion: In favor – Barrett, Burns, Fiori, L’Italien, Nixon, Phelps, Portela, Tilton-Flood. Opposed – none. Motion approved.

Included in the Consent Agenda were minutes from the April 24 Commission business meeting and the Executive Committee meeting of May 5.

Business Reports

Grant Selection and Performance.  The first set of task force recommendations for grant awards pertained to AmeriCorps continuation funding. Barrett presented the following for consideration:

MOVED by Barrett that the Colby College Maine Rural AmeriCorps Program be funded for year 3 of the 3-year grant at the requested level of $31,086 Federal Share, to be matched by at least $122,435 in local funds, supporting 2-member service years distributed over 2 slots with the stipulation that budget narrative is corrected in the application. The proposed cost per member service year is $15,543.

Second by Tilton-Flood. Vote on the motion: In favor – Barrett, Burns, Flori, L’Italien, Nixon, Phelps, Portela, Staples, Tilton-Flood. Opposed – none. Abstentions – none. Motion approved.

MOVED by Barrett that the Trekkers AmeriCorps Aspirations Project be funded for year 3 of the 3-year grant at the requested level of $30,678 Federal Share, to be matched by at least $37,628 in local funds, supporting 2-member service years distributed over 2 slots with the stipulation that the Program staff develop an internal system to deal with staff turn-over.  The proposed cost per member service year is $15,339.

Second by Portela.  Vote on the motion: In favor – Barrett, Burns, Flori, L’Italien, Nixon, Phelps, Portela, Staples, Tilton-Flood. Opposed – none. Abstentions – none. Motion approved.

MOVED by Barrett that Skowhegan AmeriCorps Outdoor Recreation Program be funded for year 3 of the 3-year grant at the requested level of $46,436 Federal Share, to be matched by at least $75,769 in local funds, supporting 3-member service years distributed over 3 slots. The proposed cost per member service year is $15,479.

Second by Tilton-Flood.  Vote on the motion: In favor – Barrett, Flori, L’Italien, Nixon, Phelps, Portela, Staples, Tilton-Flood. Opposed – Burns. Abstentions – none. Motion approved.

MOVED by Barrett that Game Loft AmeriCorps Program be funded for year 3 of the 3-year grant at the requested level of $30,683 Federal Share, to be matched by at least $70,034 in local funds, supporting 2-member service years distributed over 2 slots with the stipulation that budget narrative is corrected in the application. The proposed cost per member service year is $15,342.

Second by Portela.  Vote on the motion: In favor – Barrett, Burns, Flori, L’Italien, Nixon, Phelps, Portela, Staples, Tilton-Flood. Opposed – none. Abstentions – none. Motion approved.

MOVED by Barrett that First4 AmeriCorps be funded for year 2 of the 3-year grant at the requested level of $154,603 Federal Share, to be matched by at least $ 83,242 in local funds, supporting 10-member service years distributed over 15 slots. The proposed cost per member service year is $ 15,460.

Second by Tilton-Flood. Vote on the motion: In favor – Barrett, Burns, Flori, L’Italien, Nixon, Phelps, Portela, Staples, Tilton-Flood. Opposed – none. Abstentions – none. Motion approved.

MOVED by Barrett that Seeds of Hope AmeriCorps Community Outreach be funded for year 3 of the 3-year grant at the requested level of $28,736 Federal Share, to be matched by at least $47,363 in local funds, supporting 1.9 -member service years distributed over 3 slots. The proposed cost per member service year is $ 15,124. 

Second by Portela.  Vote on the motion: In favor – Barrett, Burns, Flori, L’Italien, Nixon, Phelps, Portela, Staples, Tilton-Flood. Opposed – none. Abstentions – none. Motion approved.

The second recommendation from the Grant task force related to the results of the call for proposals for new AmeriCorps grants. The University of Southern Maine’s Campus Compact program submitted a proposal that resulted in a favorable review. This program is a recompete, meaning it has completed one three-year grant cycle and is seeking another award.

MOVED by Barrett that the University of Southern Maine: Maine Campus Compact AmeriCorps proposal be awarded a 3-year grant with the first year of funding set at $158,350 Federal Share supporting 10.23-member service years distributed over 26 slots. The proposed cost per member service year is $15,479.

Second by Portela.  Vote on the motion: In favor – Barrett, Burns, Flori, L’Italien, Nixon, Phelps, Portela, Staples, Tilton-Flood. Opposed – none. Abstentions – none. Motion approved.

Barrett wanted to thank all the reviewers and peer reviewers.  The volunteer peer reviewers for this competition were Madelyn Hennessey, Jennifer Trowbridge, and Crystal Bridge. He reminded the Commission that another two rounds of grant competition are underway. The operational grants are due in at the end of the month. The planning grants are due in on June 11.

Branham asked that Commissioners volunteer to assess the planning grants. There will be a formal scoring for the text submitted as well as the technical review. There may be as many as five planning grants for Commission review between June 12 and the Commission meeting.

Communications Task Force. Tilton-Flood noted that the marketing and communications plan is available on-line. She said that Bryan Roche has worked hard and that there are no changes or additions since it was first circulated in March.  The Task Force will use it to create a messaging map.

A project that ramped up is using video story telling on social media. Among those published so far, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps participants have been highlighted along with Commissioners. A series by Ed Molleo at Maine CDC also provided information on reopening community volunteer programs. Bryan is looking for additional Commissioner interviews. Tilton-Flood encouraged Commissioners to watch the interviews, they are really great.

Tilton-Flood opened the floor for discussion of the marketing and communications plan, concerns or general comments. There were none. She noted the task force decided to break into subcommittees to handle both the legislative and communications tasks. Burns asked how members were assigned to subcommittees. The reply was that members who were not present to volunteer will receive an email asking for their choice.

June 2020 Election of Commission Officers. Chair Branham announced a proposed slate of officers for consideration at the June meeting. She will continue to serve as chair for another year of the two-year term. Jenifer Tilton-Flood has agreed to serve as Chair-Elect and Jonathan Barczyk has agreed to serve as Vice-chair. If anyone else would like to be considered, please contact the chair before the June meeting.

National Public Policy issues. Portela reported on the most recent developments. There are two bills of highest importance. Senators Coons, Cassidy, and co-sponsors including Senator King have introduced the Senate version which Representatives Matsui and Price along with co-sponsors have introduced the House version. These are specifically about National Service. The Speaker’s COVID response bill introduced Tuesday (May 12) only had a feasibility study for National Service which was quite disappointing. Portela has been in touch with Rep. Pingree’s office about the Matsui/Price bill and they have asked Commission staff for more information. Need to continue to monitor events on the national level.

Volunteer Maine Staff Reports. Three interns will work on Commission projects this summer. Patrick Blonaisz is doing an economic impact analysis of the use of Segal education awards in Maine. He is also analyzing the 2019 AmeriCorps member exit survey. Patrick is a Bowdoin student and doing all his work remotely.

Nathan McIvor is a UMaine Farmington student who will help Bryan merge our two websites into one and set things up on the InforMe server which is home to all the maine.gov sites. He will also assist with some of the communications activities. Nate will work from the Commission office so he has easy access to the web items that are inside the firewall.

Tony Inchorn is a Maine student who attends Northwestern University. He will work on two projects that will inform Commission grant making in the future. The first is a review of all the studies by other state agencies and statewide development groups to identify the high priority needs of Maine communities. As part of the review, he will follow up with the authors and interview them about how their findings have changed since March 2020 and the pandemic emergency. He will also help Jamie prepare some materials for the new program directors. Tony will work from Room 102, the conference room, and remotely.

Maryalice was asked how the office would handle social distancing. The spaces are all 6 feet apart and state human resources has provided masks for everyone in the office. There’s also the option to have each of the permanent staff do one day remotely if there is a need to reduce the number of people for some reason.

Mike Ashmore reported on Commission participation in the pandemic emergency response. He continues to monitor MaineReady and connect people who register to agencies. He is also providing technical assistance to the community agencies that have found themselves responding. Most are not part of Maine VOAD.  One special initiative is developing an AmeriCorps contact tracing project with Maine CDC and leadership in the epidemiology area. The gap between what AmeriCorps funds cover and the cost of support to AmeriCorps members in service can be covered by FEMA. Michael negotiated with FEMA on having a mission assignment and that reimbursement would fill the gap. Also offered to help the Medical Reserve Corps process their volunteers. They went from 350 to over 2,000 volunteers in a very short time.

Final disposition of Commission events. The following events have been cancelled: June 6 public forum on the recommendations of the Commission on National, Military, and Public Service; Maine Roll of Honor and Youth Roll of Honor recognition events; Maine AmeriCorps Member Conference.

Changed venues: the Maine Volunteer Leadership Conference will be virtual/online. Maine New Grantee training is transitioning to online, at least in part.

OIG update. An investigation opened a year ago has reappeared. Because there had been no activity for a year, staff thought it was wrapped up. Instead, there have been requests for additional information and documentation. On the audit front, the audit team has made four more requests for documentation and this is audit will be two years old next month. The exit conference with preliminary findings has never been scheduled. Expecting it will wrap up just on time for summer.

CNCS update. There is no update on rebranding. Under program updates, ME Goodwill VISTA project has 30 members in 12 communities. 17 are placed in greater Portland and 13 members serve 11 towns outside Portland. Goodwill has been approved for 30-40 VISTA summer associates. They will start in June or July, serve fo 8 weeks, to the end of August.  In Senior Corps news, the Maine Foster Grandparent highlighted by the Commission got a lot of attention and the director of Senior Corps contacted her. University of Maine Senior Corps has moved the bone building exercise program to an on-line course and participants continue to serve. In other projects, the technology discussion is underway and volunteers continue to serve as able.

Volunteer Generation Fund renewal. An application for the next three years was submitted on May 6. It focuses on building the capacity of organizations involved in the community response to the pandemic. Activities proposed include volunteer management training, re-opening services that were curtailed, increasing local agency management of their own profiles on MaineReady.org, and organize additional Service Enterprise training. The current VGF funding is in its third year and a request for a 6-month no cost extension is pending so the 18-month grants are fully covered. The extension was part of the original plan and known to prior CNCS Program Officers.

Maine Volunteer Foundation. Branham asked that the discussion among Commissioners of priorities and needs for the next year be held over to June when the business meeting should be in-person. Portela is the official Foundation liaison. Crofton is an ex-officio, non-voting member of the Foundation board and Roche is the staff support to the Foudation. Portela noted the pandemic suddenly changed the fundraising picture and the foundation stopped working on its plan for Maine Service Fellows. The board has three openings and Commissioners are asked to recommend potential members. The foundation met this morning and is interested in being part of the June discussion.

Final Business. Branham noted the next meeting is scheduled for Friday, June 19 (third Friday of the month) but, with the arrival of the planning grant on June 12, reviewers would only have 7 days.

To give the grant reviewers and task force sufficient time, it is proposed that the business meeting move to June 26, one week later. L’Italien noted he will not be available.  There were no objections to moving the meeting date. The expected schedule will be June 26 from 10 am to 1pm at the Commission conference room (Room 110).

Moved by Portela to adjourn. Seconded by L’Italien. Vote on the motion: In favor – Barrett, Burns, Flori, L’Italien, Nixon, Phelps, Portela, Staples, Tilton-Flood. Opposed – none. Abstentions – none. Motion approved. 

The meeting adjourned at 11:52 am.