Congress has brought change to the Obama administration’s Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS): its largest appropriation in history.
The fiscal 2010 budget, enacted as part of the 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act, went up by $260 million for a total just shy of $1.15 billion.
That covers expanding AmeriCorps, preventing youth from dropping out of high school and boosting energy efficiency, among other items.
CNCS’ Acting CEO Nicola Goren said in a news release that the budget is a “strong vote of confidence in the value of national service as a critical tool for solving our nation’s toughest challenges.” Goren added that the money will help strengthen and expand existing programs and invest in new initiatives authorized by the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which the corporation is still implementing.
But the fact that CNCS is operating under an acting leader is a reminder that the service agency under the Obama administration has not been without controversy. As reported by Youth Today, in late May, Obama’s choice to head CNCS, Nike vice president Maria Eitel, withdrew her name for consideration before her nomination even went to the Senate. Then, after the release of a scathing report by Inspector General Gerald Walpin criticizing corporation’s grants management, Walpin was removed by President Barack Obama. Administration officials described the move as routine. Other reports indicated that first lady Michelle Obama held sway over the corporation.
Nevertheless, the agency will have a lot of walking around money for the remainder of the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, including money for several new initiatives, such as $50 million for the Social Innovation Fund, a White House effort to seed promising new initiatives to solve pressing societal problems in education, health and other areas.
The corporation said a 5 percent increase for Learn and Serve America will allow it to support 1.3 million participants and increase the number of participating disadvantaged youth, and to start a 10-year longitudinal study on the impact of service learning. It said the new budget, which includes the first-ever increase in the dollar amount of the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, will edge CNCS toward its goal of 250,000 AmeriCorps members by 2017.
Lawmakers noted in the report on the bill that the corporation’s programs are popular right now. “Between November 2008 and April 2009,” members said, “AmeriCorps received 76,404 online applications, up 230 percent compared to the same period in the year before.”
The AmeriCorps state and national program budget will go from $256.8 million to $372.5 million.
The budget includes $2 million for Summer of Service, a new service-learning initiative to engage middle schools students in community-based improvement projects. Participants who complete 100 hours of service get $500 toward higher education. (Applications for the money were already sought, and winners are expected to be announced in May.)
A Volunteer Generation Fund will get $4 million to boost recruitment efforts, while $1 million will support an effort to build the capacity of nonprofits.
The Senior Corps’ foster grandparent program will see a small increase, from nearly $109 million in fiscal 2009 to a bit under $111 million, according to a CNCS funding chart.
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